June 19, 2013
Written by Joe Pisani
Tuesday, 06 October 2009 12:56
While I was wandering through the airport terminal, three hours early for my flight from Columbus, Ohio, to LaGuardia, I stopped at the newsstand for a book of sudoku to keep my middle-aged brain functioning at peak performance.
What caught my eye, however, was a magazine cover that proclaimed, “How to Survive (almost) ANYTHING” -- the “anything” being everything from a tsunami to the swine flu pandemic, to an avalanche, to a drought and various other “unthinkable scenarios.” Be prepared, as the Boy Scouts say.
For most of my life, I’ve endured that sort of stuff vicariously by watching a steady diet of movies like The Poseidon Adventure, Armageddon, The Towering Inferno and Deep Impact with killer asteroids and comets.
But I never considered the possibility of a “black swan” crisis, and until now, the worst I’ve experienced is a computer crash on deadline or an allergic reaction to someone’s perfume on the train.
Then, while I was sitting in the terminal, reading about how to survive a meltdown of the nation’s power grid, a seductive female voice came over the intercom and reminded us to beware of stray baggage because the Homeland Security alert was up to orange, which meant trouble was brewing.
A week later, soldiers with automatic rifles were standing sentinel in Grand Central after a terror suspect was charged with making explosives to use in the transit system.
It’s no wonder that we live in a crisis-obsessed culture after national tragedies like 9/11 and Columbine and constant headlines about a swine flu pandemic, missiles in Iran and nuclear testing in North Korea.
All this can cause a hand-wringing anxiety that’s Woody Allenesque. It reminds me of the Cold War era when bomb shelters and nuclear extinction were part of the national zeitgeist, and we had drills that sent us school children scampering into the corridors, where we sat on the floor with our hands over our heads …the good old days.
Even though I’ve survived minor league disasters like blizzards, gypsy moth infestations and flooding — not to mention the loss of my retirement savings, medical benefits and hair — I sense fear in the air, and it’s manifested in apocalyptic novels and movies like Margaret Atwood’s “After the Flood” and Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.”
People walk around carrying Germ-X, face masks, Mace and holy water. Even worse, there’s a national ammunition shortage because so many gun owners are stockpiling bullets.
Adding to the anxiety, someone sent me a prophetic vision that’s been floating through cyberspace from evangelist David Wilkerson, author of “The Cross and the Switchblade,” who foresaw mayhem in Manhattan that would spill over into the suburbs.
But you can’t live in fear, and I always try to remember what my mother told me as a kid, when I had to confront the specter of grammar school bullies and atom bombs during the Cuban Missile Crisis: Don’t be afraid. Start your day with a prayer and go out to face the world unafraid. We have no other choice.
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