A4 THE ASTORIAN • SATuRdAy, AuguST 10, 2019 OPINION email@example.com KARI BORGEN Publisher JIM VAN NOSTRAND Editor Founded in 1873 JEREMY FELDMAN Circulation Manager JOHN D. BRUIJN Production Manager CARL EARL Systems Manager OUR VIEW Salvage Chief could help save region Historic vessel might prove very useful in a disaster T 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 priorities. 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 vessel. 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. MORE ONLINE See a drone video of the Salvage Chief at bit.ly/salvage-chief The Salvage Chief has a long history of successful recovery and emergency assistance operations. 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 response. 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 here. 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. GUEST COLUMN Gun carnage is the new American norm A 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 Strong.” 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 LEONARD than you could buy a car. PITTS 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 enough. 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.