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Friday, January 6, 2012

In Case of Emergency

I bet you will never guess my favorite literary genre.  Here is a hint: Siobhan Champ-Blackwell’s Walking Gallery jacket- “In Case of Emergency.”

In Case of Emergencey

Yep, that’s right, I love post-apocalyptic fiction. 

I have read all the classics: Earth Abides, On the Beach, Alas Babylon, Lucifer’s Hammer, The Postman, The Last Ship, A Gift Upon the Shore, Malevil and of course Stephen King’s The Stand and The Dark Tower Series.   I especially enjoy children’s post-apocalyptic literature.  I have read all I could find of that wonderful sub-genre.  My childhood was blessed with titles such as Z for Zachariah; Children of the Dust and the terrifying picture book by Raymond Briggs entitled When the Wind Blows.   Currently, we are living through a renaissance of sorts in children’s literature that describes the world after catastrophe.  Books such as The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and The City of Ember by Jean DuPrau have attained best-seller status.

I am glad that such books are available.  They taught me a very important life lesson: no matter how bad it gets, some people survive and they must never give up.  As a patient advocate and the caregiver of the dying this has been a mantra I live by.

When I heard Siobhan wanted to join the Walking Gallery I decided to paint disaster upon her back.  Siobhan recently moved to DC after joining Aquilent in September 2011.  She had been working in Nebraska and has over 13 years of experience in library and information science.  Her job at Aquilent focuses on disaster health information goals of the Disaster Information Management Research Center at the National Library of Medicine and for the Bethesda Hospital’s Emergency Preparedness Partnership. 

Wind, fire, flood, drought

So upon Siobhan’s back I painted an androgynous figure bathed in flames, to the figure’s left tornadoes spiral in the distance.   To the right a mushroom cloud forms.  The torso of this figure is a turtle’s shell.  It reminds me of “See the Turtle of enormous girth, on his shell he holds the earth,” from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.  This figure holds our hope of survival in his hands.

It is a book.  The book functions as a life raft.  The book is open and the title can be easily read: “In case of emergency.”  But I worry so for the patient who stands upon the page.  She is trying to row with a blind-fold on whilst all the life preservers float away within the rushing flood.  To her left a baby is trying to crawl off the raft unseen by our blinded patient.

A book for a boat

I cannot help but think this book was opened far too late and I worry so for the figures on the raft. 

Siobhan is one of those amazing people who help create plans to overcome disaster and helps disseminate that information to us all. 

She did exactly that when she spoke before my Cub Scout troop in November.  She stood before first through fifth grade boys and spoke of fire, tornadoes and floods.  She spoke before children wearing this jacket and inspired them all.  She knows something I knew as a child, children are resilient, natural survivors if we only let them open the book and learn what to do in case of emergency.

Siobhan speaks


  1. very cool! i am so proud of my sister Siobhan!

  2. That is a very cool jacket. There's a song with someone whose hair is on fire - Pumped Up Kicks. What a marvellous icebreaker, as all of your jackets are.

    Did you read the Sophie Littlefield Aftertime series ?