Greek blog fire photo

As a Carolina blue fire truck pulled into Fraternity Court Wednesday morning, 22 members of UNC’s Greek community stood bleary-eyed in the misty rain.  There was no fire to extinguish — only a photograph taken of UNC Greeks getting ready to ride to Washington, D.C.

As a participant in the program From Chapel Hill to Capitol Hill, I was in that photograph.  Sponsored by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, this program packed a group of motivated Greeks onto a charter bus and headed to D.C.  Our mission: to convince representatives and senators to support two bills for fire safety on college campuses.

Our trip was part of Campus Fire Safety Month on Capitol Hill.  Phi Gamma Delta recruited support from all the Greek houses on campus to make this trip in honor of the lives lost in a fire at their house in 1996.  We joined the cosponsors from the Ohio Fire Safety Coalition and parents that lost children in fires to represent students across the country faced with the threat or consequences of fires on and around college campuses.

On Thursday morning our day of lobbying began with a short press conference and photos on the Capitol steps, where we hoped to make a difference.  Thirteen groups headed to meetings in the offices of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

My group met with staffers from offices from Ohio, Florida and Maryland.  The staffers are the people who study all the bills that go through Congress and advise their respective representatives or senators how they ought to vote or what they should support.

It was surprising that these staffers, who were genuinely interested in what we had to say about fire safety, were only about 25 years old.  Our country is run by people only a few years older than the students who were lobbying for fire safety bills.

Taking full advantage of this unique opportunity, my group went to the basement of the offices and took the “members only” subway and trams to get from building to building beneath the Capitol.  We also got tickets to view the sessions of the House and Senate and saw John Kerry, John McCain and N.C. Sen. Kay Hagan at work voting.  After our meetings, we met Rep. David Price, who represents my district.  I was fortunate enough to have a chance to take a picture with the man I voted for!

This was an incredible experience.   I learned about fire safety, understood more about how laws are created and discovered that our senators and representatives really care about what their constituents want.  With enough time and persistence, we will have influenced the laws that govern this country and we’ll have made campuses safer for students.

The voices and presence of these UNC Greeks in D.C. influenced the future of our country this week.  I can’t wait to go back next year to continue to be a part of something that really makes a difference.

-Megan Cassell