Saturday, March 03, 2007


Ex post tornado

Tornado damage to Alabama schoolThursday afternoon, a high school in southern Alabama was destroyed by a tornado, and eight students were killed (the photo is particularly disturbing when you keep in mind that the students and teachers were in that building when it got that way). Afterward, of course, everyone is considering what happened, and is second-guessing things ex post facto. There's the inevitable criticism of the school's administration staff for not evacuating the school after receiving tornado warnings.

The administrators made the right decision.

It's easy to see what happened and, afterward, to declare what they “should have” done. But remember that we're not talking about, say, a bomb threat that's directed specifically at the school. Tornadoes are unpredictable, and even five minutes before it hit, much less two hours before, there was no way to predict that it would do so. Its path might just as well have been a bit to the left or right, killing the students in their homes or on the street.

Sending children home off schedule is a dicey situation. Parents aren't always able to pick them up or to supervise them at home. In a situation like this, the administrators made the best decision they could make at the time: the students (and the staff, for that matter) are safer where they are, in the school, rather than being sent out to fend for themselves. They knew that and they counted on it. That they lost, in this case, is not their fault. They made the right decision.

Let's not criticize them, let's not allow what we know now, but they couldn't have known then, to damage their careers and to make them feel any more horrible than they surely already do. Let's mourn those who died, and rebuild the school. Let's hope that the administrators have the courage to make the right decision again if they have to. And let's hope that they don't have to.


Dr. Momentum said...

I hate the sort of reasoning that says "See - you should have taken the chance!" once the outcome is known. In this case it's tragic, but no matter when it happens it is annoying.

Yes - lets hope that they still go with the statistically more safe decision in the future, even having been burned once by unusual and unforeseeable circumstances.

The Ridger, FCD said...

What I've heard on the radio indicates that they are, in fact, defending the decision.

Of course, I've also run across the "A hundred students got out of here alive - that's a miracle!" comments, which must be oh so comforting for the families of the kids not worthy of the miraculous...

Barry Leiba said...

Yeah, there's a fine line between using "miracle" colloquially, as of something good happening unexpectedly and improbably... and really thinking that God interceded because you are special, which implies that he is, as we say, chopped liver.