Quick Take: Homeland Security Begins at Home

I have become convinced that we, Americans, have more to fear from our failing infrastructure than we do from any terrorist attack.

When I heard that Minneapolis’ Interstate 35W bridge, built 40 years ago, collapsed on Wednesday, August 1, sending cars plummeting into Mississippi River, heart started to race.    

It was exactly two weeks to the day that an underground steam pipe installed in 1927 exploded in midtown Manhattan. Both events happened around 6 p.m. – rush hour.  

I was nervous for another reason:  my mother, sister and brother-in-law recently moved– that Tuesday, to be exact — to a home near the bridge which they traveled across as recently as the day before the castastrophe. 

When I heard the initial report, I called my mother who informed me that my brother-in-law had traveled under the bridge to pick up my sister from the airport that afternoon.  They were going to take the bridge home but upon seeing ambulance activity near the site decided to take a different route. 

I began to think about the “what ifs”.  What if my sister’s plane had arrived earlier?  And what if my mother had decided to accompany my brother-in-law that evening? 

Two weeks ago, I was less than a mile from the steam pipe explosion and watched as smoke filled the sky.   What if I  had decided to leave work early and go uptown?   And what if I had taken the bus which would have placed me dangerously close to the site of the explosion? 

Forget about me and my family. What if the 60 children on that school bus which fell when the bridge collasped had been killed?  All of the “I’m sorrys” in the world would not have comforted those grieving parents, grandparents, relatives and friends.

And let us not forget, there are no speculative what ifs for the families of the at least nine four five eight  13 people who were killed and those who are still unaccounted for.  

Nonstructural repair work was being done on the bridge at the time and may have contributed to the collapse.

 “Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Wednesday night that the bridge was inspected in 2005 and 2006, and that no structural deficiencies were identified.” (Star Tribune 8/2/07)

But according to Star Tribune, the “highway bridge that collapsed into the Mississippi River on Wednesday was rated as ‘structurally deficient’ two years ago and possibly in need of replacement. That rating was contained in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Bridge Inventory database.”

As we focus on bringing the troops home from Iraq, let’s make sure that they are safer at home than they are on the battlefield. 

“….A terrorist attack could not have a scene more hellish…” Anderson Cooper, journalist and host, Anderson Cooper 360.

Gov Tim Poliene of Minnesota, “…A castastrophe of historic proportions for Minnesota.”

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