A year ago today, I told my own “Where were you when 9/11 happened?” story. If you missed it, you can find it here.
September 11, 2001 was supposed to be a wake-up call for this country. It was supposed to acquaint all of us with the fact that terrorism could happen even here.
I remember that infamous phrase passed around: “a failure of imagination.” All of us had it. We failed to imagine that such a terrible thing could happen in this country.
Recently, a major hurricane made landfall in the United States. It seems that we had another failure of imagination. This time, though we were supposedly prepared after decades of hurricane preparedness and local, state and federal plans designed to deal with precisely such a catastrophe, we found ourselves in another wake-up call: we are not as prepared as we thought we were.
Did our imagination fail us again? It seems so. People who were in the direct path couldn’t imagine that the storm wouldn’t make a merciful last-minute turn. People in positions of authority all the way up the line couldn’t imagine that those now-well-known disaster projections would ever really come true.
This time, the wake-up call was even louder: in an emergency, we must depend on ourselves and us alone…something we should have known from the very beginning. If the local government acts quickly enough to help us, well that’s great. If the state government jumps in and makes sure we’ve got all the resources we need, that’s all the better. If the federal government swings into action and actually helps us deal with what has happened within 48 hours of it having happened, we’ve practically won the lottery!
But before we depend on anyone else, we need to be able to depend on ourselves. It’s a shame that four years after 9/11, so many of us still haven’t figured that out.