This past week has been one of deep reflection for me. No, I'm not going to espouse philosophy or anything; it's quite simple, really. The devastating wildfires here in the Austin area, along with the 10th anniversary of 9/11... both events have stirred a myriad of emotions in me, and, I'm sure, in many of you as well.
We probably know at least someone who was affected by the wildfires in some way. I know three people personally who had to evacuate, but thankfully they were able to return to their homes with little or no damage. But there were countless others who lost everything, including their homes, and my thoughts and prayers go out to them.
You always hope that there is no loss of life with these events, but unfortunately, two people died from the wildfires, and my heart goes out to their families as well.
Even if many of us weren't directly affected by the tragic events of September 11, 2001 in the sense of losing loved ones or friends, I don't think we can ever forget the sense of horror and outrage we felt when the terrorists struck. Our country was being violated, and it didn't matter whether you lived in New York or Austin, if you saw the images on television or heard about it on the radio, you felt as if you were right in the thick of it.
The dominant thought running through my mind as I ran through both events this week is the way people pull together in times of tragedy or great crisis. We worry and complain daily about our local, state, and federal government, about the economy, the unemployment rate, health care, etc. But when something or someone threatens our community, state, or country, all that goes out the window. When you hear about people opening their homes to total strangers because they had to evacuate, or give generously of their finances or material possessions, it shows more than just a sense of duty or responsibility. It demonstrates real compassion, a feeling of togetherness. It's one of the many reasons I'm proud to be an American.
Bullying has been a problem for centuries. I certainly was a victim of my share growing up, and, I'm ashamed to say, even occasionally dished out the insults myself. My son was also a victim during middle school.
It's no secret that bullying can have major consequences, some of which can be tragic. Many teen suicides and highly-publicized school shootings over the years have been linked to youths being pushed over the edge as a result of either being bullied or feeling ostracized by their peers.
Over the past few years, the advent of the Internet, texting, and other forms of technology have created another form of bullying that can be even more destructive: cyberbullying, where humiliating messages and images are sent and forwarded to many people. Unlike face-to-face bullying, victims of cyberbullying suffer widespread public humiliation and don't have the chance to defend themseelves before the damage is done.
What can be done to stop it? The Texas Child Safety Organization, in collaboration with the Austin Independent School District and the National Day of Cyberbullying Awareness, will hold its first-ever Cyberbullying Prevention and Intervention Conference.
The event will be held Sunday, March 6, 2:30 to 5:30 Pm, at the Anderson High School Performing Arts Auditorium. Parents, students, educators, and others are encouraged to come together in an informative, interactive session to address what is being and can be done to reduce, or even totally eliminate, this growing problem among teens and preteens.
Studies show that as many as one in every three children will be cyberbullied in their teen or preteen years, so organizers of the conference believe this is a timely and potentially life-saving first step in putting a stop to it. State Represenative Mark Strama, an internet and child safety advocate, will moderate the conference.
For more information, contact Natalie Kloss-Biagini at (512) 947-3385, or email her at:
To register for the event, go online to: