The Professional Burden

August 31, 2011

In light of the recent natural disasters on the East Coast, Engineer John DiValentino, PE was inspired to write a short inspirational note to his peers.  Enjoy.

Damage to North Carlona's Highway 12 was pretty substantial - Bloomberg

Subject: A Letter from an Engineer 

As I am driving down to South Carolina trying to avoid the awe-inspiring Irene and in light of the recent earthquake, it dawned on me the beauty of engineering.

While aftershocks from the recent 5.9 earthquake still rattle the confidence of the Mid-Atlantic, and the region braces for Hurricane Irene, it’s times like these that we must not forget the importance of engineers to our daily lives and the professional burden they carry to keep the public safe. 

With such infrequency, it’s easy to overlook the precautionary considerations that engineers make for these circumstances.  The last earthquake of this magnitude to strike our region was 1944, sixty- seven years ago.  And while certainly damage was reported, the severity was minor when compared to the magnitude. Few roads buckled, no buildings, bridges or tunnels collapsed, water kept flowing, planes kept flying, cars kept driving, and trains kept rolling.  Come to think of it, people kept moving and the economy kept turning!

I don’t know if the lack of recognition of engineers’ hard work stems from a far-reaching sphere of influence or from the deeply ingrained level of trust from the general public, but it’s time to not forget.

Maybe it’s time to celebrate their achievements, to recognize the professional burden that an engineer carries, and to remember the importance they have.  And maybe, just maybe, it is time to let everyone else remember as well.

1 Comment
  • Ken,

    I had much a similar thought as John. The semester was delayed where I teach by two days due to the hurricane and the earthquake was felt by many students in the statics class I teach. I asked the class on the first day to tell me how the hurricane or earthquake impacted them. Some comments were “nothing blew down” “there really was not much damage”

    In fact the most significant damage reported by any student was that a neighbor had a door broken into while they were evacuated in a robbery attempt, although other neighbors scared the folks away.

    The Washington Monument still does not welcome visitors. I suspect no seismic considerations were a part of that project. The foundation was laid before ASCE even existed. Several schools in nearby towns were closed for some time due to local damage.

    Note also, the HUGE earthquake in Japan, and that the tsunami that resulted was the much bigger impact.

    What is the risk of a tsunami? OK now a 100% chance that a tsunami did occur after that earthquake.

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