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Tragic Events Underscore Need for
George C. Lee

MCEER offers its sincerest condolences to all who have been victimized by the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. Like our family, friends, colleagues, and fellow citizens, we search for answers in the aftermath of these tragic and unspeakable events. Given the special mission of MCEER as an earthquake engineering research center responsible to the citizens of New York State and this country, we are especially motivated to learn from these events. We must apply lessons learned and focus our research expertise to create ever safer structures and emergency response systems to mitigate against future disasters.

From this tragedy, we should find renewed purpose in our work as members of the disaster mitigation community. We have been leaders in advocating stringent seismic codes and specifications in vulnerable regions of New York State. While many eastern states have only a low to moderate probability of a damaging earthquake, the consequences, should one occur, would be very high. The recent events are a graphic demonstration of the terrible structural, economic, social, and emotional damage that disasters can inflict upon our citizens.

We now see more clearly than ever that the public infrastructure must remain functional after major disasters. Our efforts focus on earthquakes, but clearly our work to strengthen the disaster resistance of critical facilities such as hospitals, as well as lifeline and transportation networks, has essential usefulness in any type of disaster, natural or otherwise, as does our work in emergency response and recovery. We must continue to contribute our expertise in each of these areas to improve disaster readiness at the local, state, and national levels. Further, we must redouble our outreach efforts to build an educated population. People must be made aware of how they themselves should respond, and how relief agencies will respond when a disaster occurs. Citizens should be empowered to make informed decisions when limited resources of a community must be allocated for many competing purposes.

The events of September 11th, 2001 underscore new threats to public safety, and our efforts take on an even greater dimension. We must identify the relevant lessons from this horrific event, learn from them, and refine our goals. Our multidisciplinary work should strive to make communities not simply more earthquake-resistant, but more disaster-resistant. MCEER researchers must continue to pursue our refined aspirations with even greater resolve, for what we learn from the disasters and earthquakes of today can truly mean the difference between life and death for people tomorrow. 

George C. Lee, Director

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