As the howling winds approached the Texas coastline, I was writing words for an invitation to my mother’s 100th birthday party. I checked to see what had happened the year she was born. Perhaps I could use some of those “benchmarks” in the invitation? What happened in 1917?
An explosion at an artillery shells plant in Pennsylvania killed 133 workers. Initially blamed on German saboteurs, it may, in fact, have been an accident.
Over 73 blocks of Atlanta burned for nearly 10 hours, destroying 1,900 structures and displacing more than 10,000 people.
A tornado, or more likely a series of tornadoes, swept some 300 miles from Illinois into Indiana in eight days and killed 101 people.
A fire accidentally started by a foreman with a carbide lamp in a copper mine near Butte, Montana killed 168 workers. It remains the deadliest underground hard rock mining accident in the U.S.
Be assured, I chose other events to include in the birthday invitation! But these incidents made me stop and think.
When was the last time you heard of 100 people killed in a series of tornadoes? Today weather scientists can quite accurately predict them, and warning systems are in place.
A recent munitions factory incident? Safety regulations in factories have, for the most part, kept workers healthy and alive.
A city fire? Most of those structures in Atlanta had wood shingles. After the fire, the city passed an ordinance that prohibited wood shingles on new construction.
After the mine disaster, a mining strike called for safer conditions. I’m willing to bet a carbide lamp, or for that matter, any open flame, is not permitted in the tunnels today.
Following all these incidents, steps were taken to prevent the same thing from ever happening again, often with the help of scientists and engineers. These may have been costly regulations, but they saved lives and property from that time on.
But today as I write this, Hurricane Harvey is one of the worst in our history. Another is approaching Florida. Here in the western part of the U.S., we have more than 60 major fires burning. Even though I am not close to the fires, a heavy haze hangs in the air and I can see tiny white ashes floating. A light layer of ash coats my garden bench. The sun this morning was an eerie orange/pink color.
We’re back again to where our ancestors were after the city fire, after the tornadoes, after the factory explosion, after the mine disaster. What do we do now to prevent this kind of destruction in the future? Is there anything we can do? It’s time, once again, to go back to the drawing board, to again listen to the scientists, to the technicians, and set in place the regulations that can protect our earth and its animals and people. They may be costly. This is what our grandparents and great grandparents did. We are certainly capable of doing the same.