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
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
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