Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Unthinkable:  Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why? by Amanda Ripley


I admit it...I'm a total book nerd.  The best part of getting an iPhone was being able to listen to audio books when I exercise.  My students are horrified that I don't have one song on my playlist, but I have a whole library of books.  The latest 'listen' from audible.com was The Unthinkable.  I chose it because one of my favorite readers was doing the reading, but the title intrigued me.  As a mom, sometimes I think I worry about absolutely everything...because I do.  As my two daughters boarded their plane to Denmark last week, all I could think about was "What if it goes down?  There goes my whole world."  Yet, when the older one drove the younger one to school each day, I never considered how much more likely an accident was then.  Rationally, I supposed I knew it, but when are mothers rational?  Like all of the world on Sept. 11, 2001, I was glued to my television for the minute by minute coverage of the terrorist bombings.  We all watched the horrors of Hurricane Katrina, the devastation of the Bay area earthquake in the 1990's, and plane crash in the Boston river.  How many times have we all wondered...what would we do in the same situation?  Could we be the hero, or would we panic?

Amanda Ripley's investigative report is an in-depth look at the psychological and sociological study of disasters - how people react, what types of behaviors are common, and how we can handle situations in order to survive.  She gives many examples of real people in disasters that not only are we familiar with, but also ones we have never heard of and should have (for example, how about the bomb in Halifax harbor in 1916, that broke windows out sixty miles away?!).  My fear is that I would become more fearful of disasters and dangers after listening to this book, but instead it truly gave me a logical way to think about these situations.  Knowledge is a powerful tool.  And believe me, next time the flight attendant is yammering on about the exits and how to escape from the plane, I will definitely be paying attention.  As the Morgan Stanley employees found out on Sept. 11, planning and practicing evacuation plans can save your life.  Ripley even deals with young teenage drivers and how to better help them deal with accidents.  I believe this is a book that everyone should read.  It was intriguing, as well as educational.

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