What Has America Learned From Disasters Throughout its History?

America has a history rich in great deeds, innovative ideas, and illustrious personalities. However, just like any other country, America has come to experience a number of incidents and failures as well as triumphs. There have been numerous devastating catastrophes that caused great tumult at the time and left a visible trace in the American memory. 

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Halifax explosion of 1917 was just such an event. Being the biggest man-made explosion before the invention of the nuclear bomb, it brought with it unparalleled destruction. The direct cause was a collision of a French cargo ship carrying 400,000 pounds of TNT with a small Norwegian ship, a collision which occurred due to heavy naval traffic in the harbor and also due to a failure to warn other ships in the area about the cargo ship’s dangerous load. The resulting explosion took more than 2,000 human lives, and thousands of people were blinded by shards of glass from their windows. Although it happened in Canada and not in the US, it has taught the whole world a lesson of the fatal events that simple human irresponsibility can lead to.

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However, all such lessons are quickly forgotten, even such grievous ones as the Halifax incident. There was a number of similarly devastating explosions that occurred later on, among them were such incidents as the mysterious Port Chicago series of explosions which occurred in 1944 and the Texas City disaster of 1947. Although there is a chance that the catastrophe at Port Chicago was, in fact, a disguised nuclear test, both explosions were in large part caused by a failure to realize the hazards of the transportation of dangerous, combustible, explosive cargo.

Finally, there is another tragedy worth mentioning – the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, an attack performed without any formal declaration of war. The massive onslaught caught the US Pacific Fleet completely off guard, and, as a result, all eight US battleships were either sunk or damaged, and more than 2,000 servicemen died during the bombing. This insidious and devastating attack shocked the American people, and the war on Japan was declared the very next day.

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The one thing that unites all these tragedies is the massive, unexpected, unparalleled destruction – indeed, a rare thing for the United States, which has not felt the fatal tread of war on its soil since the times of the Civil War. As all these incidents show, the worst thing for the nation is indeed to be careless and to be caught off-guard. Of course, the last of these four disasters happened more than half a century ago,] and might now seem far back in time, but as not 9/11 really another Pearl Harbor? It was just as sudden, it was just as great a shock, and it caused America and Americans to seek immediate revenge, and most importantly, it changed the nation’s face forever.

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