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City Council Corner

Mike Shelton

We can all do a little to prepare, help and heal
By Councilman Mike Shelton
      Most of us live in very favorable conditions.  Even so, most of us experience tragedy in our lives.  Recent events in my own life, as well as recent events throughout the city have me thinking of how we deal with tragic events.  My experience has been that feelings of guilt, whether justified or not, almost always follow tragedy. 

     The other day in one of our city meetings, Asst. Chief Mike Watson of Unified Fire Authority eloquently expressed what most of us feel.  He said, “Public safety professionals spend their days trying to prevent disasters.  They train, they practice, they prepare.  Even so, they can’t prevent all disasters.  Despite all of their training, when disasters happen, they can’t help but feel guilty.”  I think that when something bad happens, good people all ask themselves whether they could have done more.  

     In my religious tradition, there is an axiom that says “Let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still with the utmost assurance.”  I’m not sure that we will ever avoid the feelings of remorse that come when something bad happens.  I think the best hope we have is to know that we have made a reasonable effort to be prepared.

     We should all do our best to be prepared for hard situations.  Parents, babysitters and other caregivers learn CPR and other life-sustaining measures. We teach our children about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. Most drivers make sure they buckle a seatbelt before operating a vehicle, just in case that short trip to the grocery store leads to a traffic accident instead.  Many people have prepared 72-hour kits to use in an emergency.  You can find out more about how you can personally be more prepared at

     Cottonwood Heights is also constantly preparing.  Cottonwood Heights prioritizes public safety and works with the city police department, Unified Fire Authority and city staff to make sure we are prepared for all types of emergency events.  Hundreds of people throughout the city are CERT trained and have volunteered to learn how best to help their neighbors in a crisis.  We have an emergency preparedness committee, made up of citizens and professionals that focus on various aspects of emergency planning and preparedness.

     But what happens when, despite all of our preparation, bad things happen anyway? What do we do when a young, seemingly healthy man dies unexpectedly of a heart attack, leaving a family behind? What if a cherished son, daughter, or other loved one takes their own life? How does a neighborhood cope with the grief of an accident that takes the life of a beloved neighbor?

     As I have struggled to come to terms with sad circumstances, I have learned that depending on trusted family, friends—and even sometimes caring strangers--for hope and assistance can heal deep wounds and mend broken hearts.

     Several months ago, my sister’s husband took his own life.  Through that experience, we learned first-hand the value of a resource that many residents may not be aware of.  The incident happened in Murray, so within minutes of discovering my brother-in-law the Murray Police Department arrived to handle our situation.  I arrived a few minutes later and was greeted by police on the scene.  They treated me with respect, courtesy and sympathy and carried out their work in a professional way.  I am confident residents of Cottonwood Heights would have a similar experience with our police department.

     I have come to understand that dealing with people in a crisis is often the duty of a police officer or a firefighter.  The training of the officers was really important to our family crisis.  Shortly after the police arrived, a victim advocate also came to help and provide support.  We were completely unprepared for this situation and had no idea what to do next.  It was the victim advocate that helped us navigate these unfamiliar waters. 

     Victim advocates in Cottonwood Heights and in the other communities in which they work provide invaluable support to those in need. When an unexpected death or a crime closely affects our city residents, victim advocates provide support, direction, information about available resources, or a safe place to stay. They serve victims of a wide variety of difficult situations.  They are wonderful examples of how the city has prepared for situations that few of us would think to prepare for ourselves.  

     All of us will find ourselves in difficult situations throughout our lives.  Some people in our city have recently been affected by tragedy of one kind or another.  Our sincere sympathy goes out to those who are suffering the effects of a tragic situation.  When tragedy does strike, our public safety professionals hope to play a part in helping to alleviate suffering.  Preparation will not prevent all tragedy, but we hope that our preparations as a city and your preparations as families, businesses, and individuals will help our community grow stronger.