At least once a year, something goes in Manhattan and we all think, "oh, no; not again." And it never is that again; it’s always something else. A baseball player flies into an apartment building; a gas leak causes an explosion; those irresponsible Canadians blow out the power grid; or, as yesterday, an 83 year-old steam pipe blows up and steam shoots 42 stories into the air right outside my window.
It’s not like it’s a huge surprise that aging infrastructure like New York’s will periodically fail. And it’s not a surprise that New York is not terribly failure-tolerant. It doesn’t take much to shut down mid-town Manhattan. But we’re all terrified of a recurrance of terrorism (even in a form that takes less innocent life than 9-11), and we seem to blithely tolerate multiple infrastructure failures that, economically at least, rank right up there. (And it’s not like steam explosions don’t cause at least some loss of life.)
I don’t know if this says something about the psychology of a typical human being or just about the psychology of a typical New Yorker. But it behooves all of us who walk around in fear of the unknown to remember: sometimes it’s the known knowns (in Rumsfeld’s typology) that we just don’t deal with that get us.