My heart goes out to the families who lost loved ones in the horrific and mysterious Malaysia Airlines tragedy. Watching some of the coverage made me remember my long career in crisis management. Sure am glad this isn’t my crisis to handle. A few observations:
Malaysia Airlines was ill-equipped to handle this tragedy and especially ill-equipped for the world stage it found itself on. Then again, I can’t even imagine what it would be like to communicate in a situation with so few concrete answers. The 24-hour media are a grasping bunch, taking every little thing and blowing it up into a reality rather than a possibility. In a situation where nothing is clear, misinformation abounds.
The airline was also ill-equipped to investigate such a strange occurrence and it looks like they might not have taken help quickly enough from countries with more advanced technology. In the back of my mind I believe that had this happened to a U.S. airline, the investigation would have been more straightforward even if the answers were not. Still, some three millions square miles have been scoured by multiple nations with only a few clues. So far. The search might be complicated by the possibility that nations are not showing all the proof they have so as to keep the extent of their technology secret. If true, that’s got to be frustrating for the families.
Despite the pervasive use of text messaging, it was a very bad idea to text this bad news to family members. A very bad idea.
The response of some of the families to the Prime Minister of Malaysia’s speech in which he definitely stated the plane had crashed into the sea puzzled me, even as I saw it as a outgrowth of extreme grief and even shock. Although there was always hope that the plane had landed in some far-off territory as part of a hijacking, surely the families had considered that it was more likely that the plane had crashed and had prepared themselves for this loss. The fainting, the screaming, the violent protests struck me as extreme, as did the media coverage of families in their time of grief.
I’m not sure what to say about “closure” except that in the best of cases, it takes a while. It’s true that this was a shocking and strange situation with no real answers, but realistically, “proof” may take some time. And in my experience, closure is more an internal thing than an external one and will be hard to come by even when families know as much as can be ascertained about what happened to the flight.
Does this sound cold? I don’t mean it to. Maybe what I’m most uncomfortable with is the media’s insatiable need to invade the privacy of families in their most vulnerable times and beam such personal footage into our living rooms every minute of every day.
Maybe it’s up to us to protest this, I don’t know. What I do know is there are many puzzling and disturbing things about this event and the response to it and many more questions than answers. And in world that’s sometimes expected to be so “definite,” well, that can be hard to accept.