Olaffson on Staying Focused
Gisli Olafsson describes what drives him to work in search and rescue.
Ky Luu: That’s a good lead-in to the next question I have here, which has to do with your motivation to stay engaged. This is a very difficult environment to work in, moving from one disaster to the next, obviously dealing with the pain, the suffering, the complexity of disasters. What keeps you going, what allows you to stay focused with regards to this job?
Gisli Olafsson: I think one of the key things that keeps me going is to see the rewards of your work. And I was often asked, back when I started doing search and rescue, “Why do you wake up in the middle of the night to run out to start searching for people? Why do you go out on Christmas Eve, away from your family, to help find someone who is missing?” And I always say, “It’s the smile I see when a parent is reunited with a missing kid, or when a child knows that its parent has been found.” And the same thing, for example, in Haiti, seeing people being rescued, and seeing the relatives come, and see that their loved one has been found. That smile keeps me going for a number of years, because that’s what’s up here in my mind afterwards, it’s those rewards.