Sunday, September 11, 2005

More Than Picking up the Pieces

Mallory has a post on Flight 93. It is the most fitting response on anniversaries of disaster to ponder what loss and sacrifice can teach us. It is not enough just to honor the dead and write them off as part of the great cycle of life and death, to conclude that all things rise up only to be destroyed. If the flight had merely crashed, with a chance of survivors, others would have risked their lives to recover them alive. Since there were none, we could not. Nevertheless, they would want us to choose life in some other way. The way I mean is to seek understanding and to make wise choices. Here are some words that flash the strobe light of wisdom on the stumbling awareness of our present miseries.

The events of September 11, 2001, though entirely unnatural, shed light on the nature of all disasters. That day saw the near-total failure of centralized authority. The United States has the largest and most technologically advanced military in the world, but the only successful effort to stop the commandeered planes from becoming bombs was staged by the unarmed passengers inside United Airlines Flight 93. They pieced together what was going on by cell-phone conversations with family members and organized themselves to hijack their hijackers, forcing the plane to crash in that Pennsylvania field.

This is a quote from The Uses of Disaster in Harper's, by Rebecca Solnit. BoingBoing's Mark Frauenfelder pointed it out. The article looks at the social process associated with disasters. What typically happens, why, and where it leads. This is thinking about patterns and systems rather than isolated events. If we are very bright, we should be able to predict what will come next -- unlike our bureaucratic government. Give it a try, won't you. Ask yourself the questions. That's what science is all about. Predict, Assess, Correct.

9/11/2005 11:52 PM

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