California, not the Washington, D.C., area, is where Americans go if they want to flirt with the apocalypse, at least the seismic kind.
Man-made disasters here in Northern Virginia? Well, there was 9/11 at the Pentagon several miles from me—Target Zero, of course, during the Cold War. But in Alexandria, we locals tend to feel safe from Jehovah-caused disasters, save for flooding near the shores of the Potomac River.
So when my second-floor apartment began to shake and the plastic top of a fruit desiccator tumbled from a metal file cabinet to within a foot of me, yes, terrorism was on my mind as a minor possibility, anyway. I hid under the desk on which my 32-inch monitor rested, while the four-story brick building rattled, distracting me to the point where I briefly wondered if the monitor was still upright. My wife and I are safe now, but after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake, aftershocks are not impossible. Carly suffers from heart problems and a few weeks ago almost required atrial-flutter ablation. What if if the quake had struck then? Or during my quadruple bypass in 2008?
At least quakes are unavoidable. What about man-made tragedies? I’ve been passionate on the folly of locating a 6,500-worker Quarter Pentagon within a mile or so of our greeny residential neighborhood off I-395. It is terrorist bait, better tucked away in a secured area away from civilians, assuming that we really needed to giftwrap so many defense functions for the benefit of the late Osama and spend well over a billion dollars.
The Army Corps of Engineers has recklessly bragged on YouTube about the monstrosity it’s perpetrated, albeit in more glowing terms. Earthquakes are not terrorists, but perhaps today’s can serve as a handy reminder that living in the D.C. area does not endow one with full protection from disasters, natural or man-make. People fled the U.S. Capitol and the White House.
I wonder where Eric Cantor, the majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, was at the time. The center of the 5.8-magnitude quake was reportedly in his very district, Virginia’s seventh. Google Eric Cantor FEMA to see his miserliness in action against the Federal Emergency Management Agency and tornado victims in Joplin, Missouri. I wonder how consistent he’ll be if it turns out that his district requires federal assistance. For that matter, notice how supportive Cantor has been of the U.S. Geological Survey, whose mission includes earthquake tracking and warnings. I wonder if he showed similar frugality toward the Quarter Pentagon, aka BRAC-133.
On top of everything else, Cantor and friends and, yes, Barack Obama, have staunchly supported nuclear power. Sure enough, the quake rattled the North Anna plant in Virginia—in or near his district. This wasn’t another Japan. But perversely, the same geological fault endangering North Anna also jeopardizes an atomic plant in the New York area. Big lesson is that there is no absolutely safe location for nuclear plants. Next time the quake may be stronger and the safeguards not as effective.
Is it distasteful to bring up Cantor and fellow misers and nuke-boosters in a quake-related commentary? I’m all for polite discussion of national issues. But to dwell on Cantor’s follies—and those of like-minded politicians, as well as the lapses of the Democrats in moments of weak-mindness—is not incivility.
Rather it’s apropos commonsense.