Ginny Leason’s golden rule moments in disaster relief and emergency response
Albert Celoza Guest Columnist
One of the most murderous acts of terrorism other than the Sept. 11, 2001, attack happened on April 19, 1995. On that day, 168 people including children were killed and more than 800 were injured in the Oklahoma City bombing perpetrated by two home-grown terrorists.
I am privileged to know one person who has responded to grave tragedies, disasters, and emergencies like this. Disaster relief has been a habitual undertaking for Ginny Leason that upon hearing the news, her father asked her, “When are you leaving for Oklahoma?”
Arizona Interfaith Movement’s Ginny Leason traveled to Oklahoma in the aftermath of the bombing. Ginny described the place as like a war zone. The bombing caused destruction in the federal building and other structures; windows were blown out and shattered. There was debris all over. It was important to clean up but at the same time, there were hundreds of human beings who were in dazed and shocked needing assistance. Organization was required to systematically deal with the situation. Volunteers from the Red Cross, Feed the Children and others went into action.
Ginny is a member of the Church of Scientology. In fact, she is the Church of Scientology Disaster Response leader in Arizona. This is a group who are trained to address various aspects of disaster relief. As a CSDR volunteer minister, she is practiced in alleviating the emotional impact of physical pain and trauma, helping survivors, responders, and caregivers, and maintaining calm and stability in an otherwise chaotic situation. Ginny’s advice is first to assess the situation and determine the needs and then plan a course of action. After assessing the needs one has to organize the response for people to work as a team. In everything that is done the feeling of hope is a necessary ingredient to animate people towards a goal.
In 2009, Ginny once again dealt with what has become another tragic part of America’s history. In Columbine, two students killed 12 fellow students and a teacher. Many more were injured by gunshots fired by two young perpetrators who ended up killing themselves. The Columbine massacre has had severe consequences not only for this Colorado town but also for the entire nation. Today these mass shootings have become common occurrences in American society. In addition to Ginny’s training, her compassion as a mother to help children in need became an important part of her response. She and her 11year-old son offered help. Her son sat in a grassy area, where other children talked, and listened to one another to alleviate the pain and the shock. Everyone there needed to feel that their sorrows were shared.
Beyond immediate emergencies, people also needed consolation and faith. The Columbine massacre and other disaster relief efforts of Ginny have become the theme of the golden rule moments in her life. I asked how she developed the empathy and the
will to be involved in the lives of others. She said it was from the upbringing of her parents. Her dad was a veteran of the Korean War and had a lifetime of service to the community. Her mother was involved with the PTA and worked with other parents to benefit the school children. Growing up Ginny was imbued with a sense of service. She was always there to give back to the community. She has ignited in me the spirit of service and the hope that we will all pay it forward and make our own golden rule moments. Albert Celoza is the executive director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement.