Wasn’t 9/11 a Wakeup Call?

September 2nd, 2005

2005.09.02-13.32.21/tornado.jpgToday George W Bush offered up one of the most insightful statements I’ve ever heard him utter. He said, “It’s as if the entire Gulf Coast were obliterated by the worst kind of weapon you can imagine.” Exactly, Mr. President, exactly. In other words, it’s no different than a terrorist attack. Which begs the question: why, nearly four full years after 9/11, is our national homeland defense this poorly prepared to offer rapid, large-scale response to a major catastrophe? Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster, but a terrorist attack could just as easily leave as many people – or multitudes more – homeless and in need of water, food, order, and evacuation.

Don’t feed me that line about nobody foreseeing the levee breach in New Orleans. I have two problems with that suggestion. First: experts, including the US Army Corp of Engineers, have predicted for years that a major hurricane would overwhelm the levees that protect New Orleans. The FEMA director, Michael D Brown, was well aware of the risk a major hurricane posed to New Orleans, breached levees or not.

Second, it shouldn’t matter whether anybody specifically predicted that the levees would fail. Our nation’s homeland defense should be prepared to respond swiftly to a major disaster anywhere, and with little or no warning. Do you think we will have days of warning before a magnitude 9 earthquake strikes a major city in California? Do you think we will have any warning at all should terrorist detonate a dirty bomb or a nuclear bomb in Chicago, New York, or Washington DC?

Joe Becker of the American Red Crass said that – under the circumstances – the govenment response has been “Nothing short of heroic.” In my business, heroism is the hallmark of poor planning and lack of preparation. It means that a job that should have gone smoothly instead becomes a last-minute race by desperate engineers to meet a fast-approaching deadline. In the case of a natural disaster, “heroic effort” suggests that men and women in the field are giving their all to help desperate victims, but it also suggests a lack of leadership. Heroism speaks well of the rank and file, but it indicts management as poorly prepared.

Bush has stated that the response to Katrina is unacceptable. You’re darn right it it’s not acceptable, Mr. President. It’s a disgrace. The response should have been disciplined, efficient, orderly, and massive. We’ve had years since the wakeup call on 9/11. If the response to Katrina is any indication, we’ve done little in that time to prepare for another major terrorist strike. At least with the hurricane we had a few days warning and were able to evacuate many people in advance, saving many lives. A major terrorist attack, however, will strike a fully populated city with no warning, and if our response is as poor as the response to this hurricane, we’re in deep, deep trouble.

3 Responses to “Wasn’t 9/11 a Wakeup Call?”

  1. Leigh Ann Says:

    My thoughts exactly. I’m livid at the lack of response. Why should those poor folks have to wait DAYS for relief? How long did it take the U.S. to respond the tsunami? How long did it take the U.S. to respond when a Russian sub was in distress? How long did it take Congress to have an emergency session to help ONE WOMAN who was about to be disconnnected from life support? Where is our government? It is now obvious, if it wasn’t before, that we cannot depend on them. The rest of the world can, but we cannot.

    I hold in my hand an article from the October 2004 issue of the National Geographic. It describes, to a ‘T’ what happened in New Orleans. I will try to scan and post it. I was going to blog this tonight, but I cannot hold back my anger……

  2. Cary Says:

    Amen to both of you.

    I couldn’t agree more.

  3. It’s ALL ABOUT ME! » geographic Says:

    [...] es, to a ‘T’ what happened in New Orleans and was written a year ago. I agree with my my brother in that if, after four years after the inception of the Department of H [...]