Nothing Happened in Nashville...

Remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? In the days when people's lives depended on their herds, someone had to be there to watch over them. So our boy had the watch, and got tired, or was mischievous, or maybe he fell asleep, or was just plain old bored. Whatever the reason, he claimed to see a wolf when there wasn't one. So the whole town went into overdrive emergency mode, and turned out in full force to protect the herd. But of course, there was no wolf. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, patted the boy on the back sympathetically, and went back to what they were doing. Everything got back to normal. After a time, the boy, for whatever the reason, got bored again, or tired, or mischievous. Maybe he liked all that energy or attention he got the first time he'd cried wolf. Whatever the reason, he did it again. And of course the town rose up into emergency overdrive again, bringing swords and pickaxes and plowshares and whatnot, but of course, there was no wolf. So when the townspeople headed back, they didn't amend their procedures; they didn't put up cameras, or send a new watch team in. No pat on the back for the boy this time--they just went back to what they were doing. And of course, the infamous third time he called, the town rose to the occasion, but there was no occasion. They had another chance to amend their procedure, but no, this time they glared at the boy, and went back to what they were doing. This is when they should have put someone else there, because he'd lost all credibility. It was inevitable that now that everyone was desensitized, the wolf was going to show up. And so he did. And of course, the boy cried wolf this time because this time there was a wolf, and of course as the story goes, by now no one believed him when he sounded the alarm, even though this time it was really an emergency.

So, this is why I have been wrestling with whether or not to write about the Northwestern Nashville event. The one where the plane was stopped over a suspicious looking package that turned out to be christmas ornaments. The one that has figured so highly in the news. It seems to be very important that 75 passengers and five crew members were evacuated, screened and for two hours, dogs and a bomb unit searched the plane and nothing was found. The plane went on its way.

But here's the rub.

This was an emergency procedure. The package could have been dangerous. It could have been a red herring, while something else was on the plane that was more dangerous. The boy did NOT cry wolf. The boy did his job. The herd was safe, and went on its way unharmed.

This is a non-event. Passengers reboarded after about two hours and the flight continued. A few people had their schedules rattled. Maybe a little more importantly, a few people had their calm rattled, but ultimately nothing was lost but a few hours. This was a good thing for all concerned. Can you say "Your Homeland Security Dollars At Work?"

It is important for us to remember that the watch worked.

Perhaps the whole emergency procedure turned out in the long run to be nothing more than a drill. But the value of a drill is that it hones skill. Practice builds expertise.

I am sure in some countries, anti-American spindoctors are chuckling over keystone-cop-three-stooges retellings of our efforts at national security. I hope there are no such versions in this country. Because the watch worked.

The package could have meant another disaster. It could have been bad news. It could have meant the end for 80 individuals, and grief and terror for the rest of the country. Instead, it was just another piece of lint that got caught in the filter.

We should be thrilled at the effectiveness at the filter, not ridiculing the process anywhere (except perhaps on Saturday Night Live or in the desperate humor of late night talk show hosts no one is taking seriously anyway.)

We should not be distracted by this non-event. We should be glad that our emergency crews are out there, doing their jobs, flexing their muscles, refining their procedures and keeping the watch. In the words of Winston Churchill, It is no use saying," 'We are doing our best.' We have got to succeed in doing what is necessary."

We are doing what is necessary.

The boy has not cried wolf. Neither should the media.

Originally Posted by George Hatcher Saturday, January 2, 2010