All they [terrorists] can hope for is to spawn enough fear to spur Washington into overreacting in costly and self-destructive ways.
A report on disaster preparedness (PDF, HTML-ized by Google, NYT) released in June 2006 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found that only 25 percent of state emergency operations plans and 10 percent of municipal plans were sufficient to cope with a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. ...
In 2005, after a review of hundreds of studies and reports and a survey of more than 2,000 engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers issued a scathing report card on 15 categories of infrastructure: the national power grid, dams, canal locks, and seven other infrastructure sectors received Ds; the best grade, a C+, went to bridges, and even in that case, 160,570 bridges, out of a total of 590,750, were rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. ...
An August 2006 study sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security found that nine out of ten Americans believed that being prepared for emergencies was important. Yet a poll commissioned in the same month by Time magazine found that only 16 percent of Americans thought they were "very well prepared" for an emergency. The good news is that most of the things people can do at the individual level to prepare themselves, their families, and their employees are relatively easy. These measures include purchasing a three-day emergency kit, developing a family emergency contact plan, and visiting Web sites maintained by the Red Cross and other organizations that provide instructive what-to-do lists.
Unfortunately, the prevailing interpretation of that day focuses almost entirely on the three airliners that struck the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. ... But it is the story of United Airlines flight 93, the thwarted fourth plane, which crashed in a Pennsylvania field, that ought to be the dominant 9/11 narrative. That plane's passengers foiled al Qaeda without any help from -- and in spite of the inaction of -- the U.S. government. ... Americans should celebrate -- and ponder -- the reality that the legislative and executive centers of the U.S. federal government, whose constitutional duty is to "provide for the common defense," were themselves defended that day by one thing alone: an alert and heroic citizenry.
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