During times of tragedy, we look for answers to help assuage our grief but we also long for a sense of order to help us restore stability in what can feel like a chaotic time. This is when protocol can be instrumental in helping us to properly pay our respects but to also help us regain a sense of normalcy. Nowhere was this truer than the response to the recent pedestrian bridge accident that took place on the campus of Florida International University in Miami.
We recently heard from two of our graduates—FIU employees Breny Garcia and Dania Pearson-Adams—both of whom were instrumental in planning the grief vigil to honor those individuals who passed away in the terrible accident.
“The last 7 days have been harrowing,” said Breny DaParre Garcia, Ed.D., Associate Vice President, Institutional Relations, Office of the President, Florida International University. “But our training at The Protocol School of Washington helped us coach our student government leaders (who served as vigil hosts) down the long path to start the healing process.” Breny, working alongside fellow PSOW graduate and FIU employee Dania Pearson-Adams, Associate Vice President, Office of Community Relations, Protocol & Special Events, Division of External Relations were part of a FIU response team that helped arrange a somber procession of more than 1,000 mourners comprised of students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members who walked shoulder to shoulder to pay their respects to the victims of the accident.
In a note to PSOW President Pamela Eyring, Dania said, “I am beyond thankful and grateful to you and the team of trainers who spent time teaching us the etiquette and protocol for moments like this,” said Dania. “Because of you, Diane Brown and the entire leadership team, I was able to use my training to help our team create a vigil service, that I pray, paid tribute to our victims and their families.”
Immediately after the tragedy, Dania also called Pamela to ask for guidance and advice on the official governmental response to such a tragedy. “You (Pamela) helped us get the feedback we needed, and, because of your help, the Governor had flags fly at half-mast from sunrise to sunset throughout the entire state,” said Dania.
“When I received Dania’s call, I could tell she was upset and needed guidance quickly. Within 45 minutes, I had reached out and heard back from graduates, Edward Teleky, Director of Ceremonies, White House Military Office and Melissa Warner, Director, Office of University Events & Protocol, Arizona State University with additional suggestions to her dilemma. Protocol helps protocol,” shared Eyring.
“Some people might think our jobs in the protocol profession are always glamorous, but we know there are events we must plan that can rip your heart out,” said Eyring. “But it must be done and Dania and Breny were able to use their knowledge of protocol for those who died, their precious families, the FIU students, the faculty, the community and for all of us around the world.”
“By asking the right questions, having persistence, creating a spiritual moment and by giving their whole hearts, Breny and Dania helped touch those families and all who participated in the FIU vigil,” said Eyring. “Their appreciation to us and for those people they support are why we do what we do.”