Friday, September 10, 2010

Too close for comfort

Feel like I ought to say something profound about the explosion in San Bruno, mere miles from where I live, that has destroyed a whole neighborhood and undoubtedly killed many people (only 4 in the official count so far, but its got to be in the tens). And on Rosh Hashanah no less. Not a good way to start the year. Random thoughts:

- I know this area and it's about as boring a place as you could imagine around here -- not poor, not rich, tucked away in a corner away from things. But it's also over a utility corridor. I wonder if the people there knew that.

- My drive home took me very close to the fire as it was going on. I saw many people on the highway pull to the shoulder to gawk. People, in a disaster you either figure out some way to help or GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE WAY.

- I followed the story from Twitter and seemed to stay about five minutes ahead of the TV news, who ended up showing the same Google maps views and this interesting map of gas pipelines. OTOH, they had the helicopter video.

- I almost had to put a "-prayer" term in my Twitter search, so many people were posting stuff like "our hearts and prayers are with you". Not informative! But it's interesting in a way, that's what prayer is for, for communion, for making yourself feel what other people are feeling. Perhaps this is obvious to the normally spiritual person but a fascinating alien phenomenon for me. And also interesting to see social media as a vehicle for it.

- Speaking of gas pipelines, we live in an energy-intensive society, and somehow that energy has to be delivered, and that means there is always some risk involved. I guess it's fortunate in a way that this happened in a suburb rather than a more densely populated city, where there is presumably an even greater energy flux.

- There's been rumors of negligence by PG&E. If they turn out to be true, it doesn't really say anything about the evils of capitalism -- government is no stranger to irresponsible management of big technology (see: Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans). I do wonder why it took hours to shut the pipeline down though, that seems like either poor design or poor response. It's right on top of the San Andreas Fault, so you'd think that the system would have been engineered to deal with a rupture.

- It's scary to be reminded of the fragility of our existence, but also gratifying to see the resilience of the community response. People really do want to help each other.

1 comment:

Peter said...

I had a "fuck people, man" moment on the Bay Bridge some years ago. There was a gnarly multi-car accident on the lower deck, at rush hour, and there were emergency vehicles coming down the lefthand lane every few minutes, blaring "keep the lane clear for emergency vehicles!" over the PA as they'd struggle to to get the line of cars to move right. Every time they'd finally get by, a gaggle of dickheads rushed in behind the emergency vehicle into the open lane, and the cycle would repeat. I hope nobody died waiting for an ambulance.