We think we’re safe in the city. There’s so many of us together, it’s assumed not much bad will happen. At the least it should happen to somebody else, hopefully not somebody you know. A shooting, a car crash, we move on. Few events screech our lives to a halt, demanding our collective attention for the sake of emergency.
We crave these kinds of happenings, though. Just the power going out has us racing to Facebook and Twitter, giddy to share this unexpected experience. True pandaemonium does occasionally occur. However, disasters like San Francisco in 1991, New York in 2001, or New Orleans in 2005 are so well documented that they remain etched into our collective memory. But is it enough?
Catastrophe from generations past linger, too. The Chicago fire, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the dust bowl years – all have found places in our public ed textbooks. Dig deeper than what you learned in school, though, and the mind boggles how we’ve survived this long. What follows are a handful of mostly man-made disasters that dwarf recent history in scale and ferocity.
Seattle, 1957 – Okay, as far as disasters go, this wasn’t actually that bad. Nobody died, but only barely. Usually just small enough to swallow a car or truck, the phenomenon of sinkholes has always fascinated me. That the ground can simply opening up with little warning – swallowing people and property – is frankly terrifying. Larger episodes, however rare, are the stuff of nightmares. The recent sinkhole in Guatemala City took a 3-story building some 200 feet straight down into a perfectly round maw the diameter of an entire intersection. Such massive sinkholes we usually attribute to poorer nations without First World maintenance or proper seismic monitoring. Yet nature and physics so often make a mockery of this kind of cognitive dissonance (think Titanic). Such was the case in Seattle, 1957.