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Monday, Sep. 22, 2014

Was Missouri really ready for terrorists?

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

The first in a series of town hall meetings was held

in Kansas City this week to explain the state's

response to the terrorist attack on Sept. 11. State

officials, including Gov. Bob Holden, were on hand to

explain the state's planning and response to the

threat of terrorism. The recurring theme was that we

must get on with our lives and not allow fear to

dictate how we conduct business. We couldn't agree

more.

Reading accounts of this week's first meeting however

gave me the impression that our state had been in

preparation for terrorist attacks for many years. I

frankly doubt that's the case. Our state director of

Health and Senior Services told the crowd that the

state has been working with the FBI since 1999 to

learn more about threats to public health and safety.

Now I certainly wouldn't question whether that

statement is true or false. I assume it to be true.

But I wonder if those discussions have involved

airport security or the threat of anthrax or a host of

other issues that were born on Sept. 11.

I suspect that Missouri's emergency preparedness has

more to do with tornadoes and earthquakes than

terrorist attacks. I most certainly could be wrong.

But it would be foolish for state officials to give

the false impression that we've been preparing for two

years for the threats we now face. If we have then

state officials have a much better crystal ball than

the rest of the nation.

Missouri has long been prepared fairly adequately to

address massive flooding or other disasters. We have

more experience in those areas. But who in state

government could have seen the threat to the airline

industry or the mail delivery? The answer is probably

no one. And that's not an indictment or a criticism.

It's simply the reality. None of us were prepared for

these recent events.

I sincerely applaud the state for conducting public

meetings to provide reassurance. It's important and

appropriate. But let's also be extremely honest in

these gatherings. Let's explain our ability to address

natural disasters and our track record in those

instances. But to equate earthquake preparedness with

terrorist attacks is misleading. A cooler packed with

food and flashlights is a far cry from the threat of

anthrax.

One audience member in this first meeting told state

officials she felt good knowing the state was looking

at the threat of terrorists for years. "That made me

feel good that this isn't anything that caught

Missouri by surprise," she added.

Well my dear, like the rest of the nation, the

terrorist attack indeed caught Missouri by surprise.

We are moving rapidly toward a safer environment in

Missouri and that's reassuring. But to assume or

portray Missouri as being "on top" of the terrorist

issue is misleading. But you probably knew that

anyway.



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