On Tragedies and Disasters
April 18, 2007
Having worked in news for years, and read news for even more years, there is one thing I am always struck by: Tragedies and disasters are almost never unanticipated. Even the ones that seem to happen out of the blue. The Virginia Tech and Columbine shooters had been identified by teachers or other students as being troubled, and had even been referred to counseling and the police. Documentaries were made about what would happen if a strong hurricane hit New Orleans. Tsunami warning systems along certain Asian coasts had been in the works for years. And we all know that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were not so surprising to far too many US officials.
Of course, we can’t assume that every worry will be actualized, and even when we identify a likely problem, it still takes a huge leap to imagine a plane flying into a skyscraper or the submersion of an entire city (though, sadly, it’s less hard to imagine a massacre of young people given its regularity). And these tragedies get more attention than daily tragedies, such as car accidents or constant youth killings in urban neighborhoods, which happen in front of our collective eyes all the time. Yet, it’s hard not to ask: If there are few surprises, why are there so many tragedies and disasters?