The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current, August 10, 2019, WEEKEND EDITION, Page 4, Image 4

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THE ASTORIAN • SATuRdAy, AuguST 10, 2019
Founded in 1873
Circulation Manager
Production Manager
Systems Manager
Salvage Chief could help save region
Historic vessel
might prove very
useful in a disaster
he caption to a photo we
published along with our
news coverage of the pos-
sible use of the Salvage Chief in a
huge emergency said it all.
“The Salvage Chief has a long
history of successful recovery and
emergency assistance operations.”
The latest discussion featuring the
vessel’s future was about whether
North Coast officials supported pos-
sible funding being considered by
the state Legislature.
The session adjourned in Salem
before it could be acted on, but it
would have provided state money to
help repair and upgrade the decom-
missioned World War II-era craft.
Monica Steele, the interim Clat-
sop County manager, Tiffany
Brown, the county’s emergency
manager, and Astoria Mayor Bruce
Jones were among those less than
enthusiastic about supporting the
idea. They and County Commis-
sioner Kathleen Sullivan pointed to
the $2 million price tag as being too
high when there were other pressing
And Jones, whose Coast Guard
expertise gives him solid stand-
ing in discussing such matters, said
there was no plan in place to demon-
strate how the vessel could be used
in a disaster — and no analysis of
the ongoing costs of maintaining the
Despite these reasonable and
well-stated concerns, we think it’s
too early to write it off.
Preserving the Salvage Chief
should be considered more than just
a sentimental project. It could be a
key component in any North Coast
disaster planning.
A private nonprofit group is seek-
ing to preserve the old naval landing
vessel, which was converted to per-
form marine salvage. It’s a campaign
anyone with an interest in maritime
history should support with vigor.
The Salvage Chief has aided
nearly 300 vessels in its storied
Photos by Colin Murphey/The Astorian
The Salvage Chief docked at Tongue Point.
See a drone video of the Salvage Chief
The Salvage Chief has a long history of successful recovery and emergency assistance
career, including when the Exxon
Valdez oil tanker ran aground in
Alaska in 1989.
Its sturdy winches, combined with
improved communications capabil-
ities and the potential of a team of
welders, riggers, fitters, divers and
seamen ready to deploy and assist,
offer significant potential for the
shallow-draft ship
Floyd Holcom and other sup-
porters say it could perform several
functions in an emergency — serv-
ing as a mobile hospital or commu-
nications platform, or even pull-
ing pieces of the Astoria Bridge or
the Lewis and Clark Bridge near
Longview, Washington, out of the
Columbia River. They say if prop-
erly retrofitted and maintained,
it could be ready for immediate
The 2007 Great Coastal Gale
proved we can survive a natural
disaster, but in the first days after the
event it was abundantly clear that we
were on our own. The recent U.S.
military hovercraft exercise at Sun-
set Beach offered some terrific reas-
surance that rescue help can reach
But the key is timing. In the
event of a significant subduction
earthquake, tsunami or other cri-
sis that may disrupt inland areas as
well, there will be a lag time in help
reaching us.
Preparing a plan that means we
are relatively self-sufficient is a pri-
ority. We would like to see emer-
gency planners factor in all available
local resources — and that includes
considering the Salvage Chief as a
viable possibility.
Gun carnage is the new American norm
nd again.
And still.
Nine people shot dead in Day-
ton, 13 hours after 22 shot dead in El
Paso, six days after three shot dead in Gil-
roy. And tears and disbelief and funeral
preparations, candlelight vigils and a
search for meaning, and talking heads on
cable news and T-shirts and hashtags tout-
ing resilience in the face of pain: “Day-
ton Strong,” “El Paso Strong,” “Gilroy
And again.
And still.
And people asking “Why?” and Repub-
lican officials trotting out explanations
noteworthy mainly for their uselessness.
They blame mental illness, Colin Kaeper-
nick, Barack Obama, video games, drag
queens, gay marriage, TV zombies, immi-
grants and recreational marijuana. Every-
thing except the gun,
everything except the fact
that this is a country where
the angry and disaffected
can buy weapons of mass
destruction more easily
and with less regulation
than you could buy a car.
Which suggests a cog-
nitive bankruptcy that
defies overstatement.
Because while Kaepernick and Obama
may be singularly American, this is hardly
the only country where people play video
games. It is not the only country where
they watch zombies on television, suf-
fer mental illness or use pot. It’s not even
the only country where citizens keep and
bear arms. But it is the only country where
mass murder is routine. The only one.
And again.
And still.
And it is not just that public responses
to this American carnage feel rote and
ritualized. It is also — for many of us,
at least — that our inner responses feel
much the same. There is, isn’t there, an
all-too-familiar numbness, a shopworn
feeling of helplessness, of what can I do to
stop it, what can I do, what can I do? And
of hearing the answer whisper up from the
subtext of Republican rationalization.
“Nothing. There is not a damn thing
you can do.”
As if we must accept the carnage,
learn to live with it as we do earthquakes,
storms and other natural disasters. But
there is nothing natural about this disaster.
And for all the babies and mothers, uncles
and best friends, brothers and wives head
shot, gut shot and dead in this measure-
less hailstorm of bullets, the most fateful
casualty may well be the sense, birthright
of every American, that if you don’t like a
thing, you have the power to fix it.
We seem to have misplaced that. In a
nation that has changed the course of riv-
ers, we seem to believe we cannot change
the course of our own behavior.
But this is a lie.
Notwithstanding all the gerryman-
dering, voter suppression and other bal-
lot-stealing dirty tricks of our era, this is
still a democracy. And if 60 percent of us,
as reported by Gallup, want stricter gun
laws, there is no reason we cannot have
them except our own failure to demand
it. That means lobbying neighbors and
friends. It means not chasing the bright
and shiny distractions politicians dangle.
It means holding them accountable, show-
ing up on Election Day with our neighbors
and friends and voting out every NRA
flunky. It means deciding that enough is
And realizing that if we are helpless, it
is because we’ve allowed ourselves to be.
In so doing, we fail those we’ve lost. We
fail our country. And we fail ourselves.
Six days, 34 people. Our ordinary
places, our everyday places, our Walmarts,
movie theaters, classrooms and malls
become killing fields, washed in blood,
then enshrined with flowers, notes and
teddy bears. This is the new American
norm. Just wait a few days, maybe a few
hours, and you’ll see it again.
And again.
And still.
Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The
Miami Herald.