A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


Look, I’m not trying to be Pollyanna.  I’m not playing some “glad game,” where you try to find silver linings strapped to the back of every dark, angry cloud.  The past few weeks have been brutal, especially for those who are trying to survive calamity along America’s Gulf Coast.  The massive loss of life and property has touched a responsive, compassionate chord in us.

And it makes us wonder: what if something like THAT happens here?

Wherever “here” is.

Sure, the city of New Orleans was uniquely designed, and much of the trauma and tragedy inflicted during and after the visit of Hurricane Katrina was a result of that unique design.  But wherever we live, stuff can happen.  We won’t ever experience a hurricane where I live, and I don’t think there’s a levee within four or five states of here.  But we live within a few miles of an earthquake fault line, and seismologists tell us it isn’t a matter of “if” we will experience a sudden, dramatic shift in the earth’s surface, but “when.”

There’s something like that where you live, too – isn’t there?  Some grave inevitability is lurking out of sight and usually out of mind.  And then something like this happens and you remember – shuddering – that something like that could happen to you.  Maybe it’s a tornado.  Or a fire.  Certainly terrorism could rear its ugly head anywhere, at any time, in any way.

How will we handle it when – not if – we come face to face with something like that?

If there is anything good that can come from something like that, it is the opportunity it provides for all of us to learn vicariously, and to reassess our personal and family preparedness for such situations.  For example, we have learned that it might be a good idea to store an ax in the attic.  To be honest, that’s something that never occurred to me before.  But now it seems like a pretty good idea, just in case there comes a time when your only way out is through the roof.

We have learned not to count on help arriving instantaneously.  This is not a criticism or an indictment of anyone or anything.  It’s a simple fact of life – especially during times of crisis.  All kinds of things may make it difficult to get food, water and emergency supplies to us and to our families.  So we need to be prepared to take care of ourselves for as long as possible.  Yes, it is the government’s job to take care of us.  But it is first and foremost OUR job to take care of us.

When I was little Civil Defense experts talked about the importance of having a “72-hour kit” available for each family – and possibly for each member of the family.  The kit was to be something that could be easily carried – like in a backpack or something – and could be stored at a convenient place in the home where you could grab it and go . . . whenever.  It would include the things most needed in an emergency – water, food, medicines, a change of clothes, a transistor radio and batteries and maybe even a little cash.  It was not intended to maintain a lifestyle – just to sustain life for a few days until more meaningful help could be obtained.

Perhaps the past week has taught us that something like that would be a good thing to have on hand in case we are suddenly confronted by ... well ... something like that.

The past few weeks have also reminded us that no matter how large and diverse our nation may be, we are really just one big community.  When one segment of our population is in crisis, we are ALL in crisis.  We hurt for each other.  We worry and fret.  And then we reach out in any way we can to ease suffering and help the healing.  We’ve seen it in large-scale humanitarian outreach operations, and in the hometown efforts of small groups of young people to raise funds for Katrina’s refugees.  We are not an unfeeling nation.  We care.  And because we care, we find ways to overcome obstacles and conquer adversity.

Even when it’s . . . you know . . . something like that.

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— © Joseph Walker

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