Personal Effects: What Recovering the Dead Teaches Me About Caring for the Living

Personal Effects: What Recovering the Dead Teaches Me About Caring for the Living

by Robert A. Jensen


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The owner of the world’s leading disaster management company chronicles the unseen world behind the yellow tape, and explores what it means to be human after a lifetime of caring for the dead.

You have seen Robert A. Jensen—you just never knew it. As the owner of the world’s largest disaster management company, he has spent most of his adult life responding to tragedy. From the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, and the Bali bombings, to the 2004 South Asian Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 Haitian Earthquake, and the Grenfell Tower Fire, Jensen has been at the practical level of international incidents, assisting with the recovery of bodies, identifying victims, and repatriating and returning their personal effects to the surviving family members. He is also, crucially, involved in the emotional recovery that comes after a disaster: helping guide the families, governments, and companies involved, telling them what to expect and managing the unmanageable. As he explains, “If journalists write the first rough draft of history, I put the punctuation on the past.”

Personal Effects is an unsparing, up-close look at the difficult work Jensen does behind the yellow tape and the lessons he learned there. The chronicle of an almost impossible and grim job, Personal Effects also tells Jensen’s own story—how he came to this line of work, how he manages the chaos that is his life, and the personal toll the repeated exposure to mass death brings, in becoming what GQ called “the best at the worst job in the world.”

A rare glimpse into a world we all see but many know nothing about, Personal Effects is an inspiring and heartwarming story of survival and the importance of moving forward, Jensen allows his readers to see over his shoulder as he responds to disaster sites, uncovers the deceased, and cares for families to show how a strong will and desire to do good can become a path through the worst the world can throw at us.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250267993
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/28/2021
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 122,062
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Robert A. Jensen is Chairman of Kenyon International Emergency Services, the global leader in crisis management and mass fatality response. He has spent most of his adult life responding to such events.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 The Opposite of Meaning 9

2 Luck and Time 24

3 What Kind of a Person? 30

4 This Is Haiti 41

5 What's in a Name? 53

6 Lost and Found 60

7 Picking Up the Pieces 75

8 Sunken Treasure 87

9 The Terrorist Attacks 99

10 Death and Truth 116

11 Preparing for the Next (But Not the Last) Disaster 124

12 Known Only to God-And Science 138

13 Mass Graves and Conflict Zones 152

14 The Science and Emotion of Identification 174

15 DNA and the CSI Effect 188

16 A World of Pain 202

17 The Wave 216

18 Another Day at the Office 228

19 London's Towering Inferno 245

20 The Resilience Factor 257

21 What I've Collected 270

Epilogue 277

Acknowledgments 283

Index 289

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