Friday, May 01, 2009
"The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes -- And Why" by Amanda Ripley
What would you do if you suddenly found yourself in the midst of a disaster? A shooting on campus, a plane going down in an icy river, a hurricane making landfall, or the ultimate terror of a plane crashing into your building? That's what Amanda Ripley set out to answer in her book The Unthinkable, examining eyewitness and first-person accounts of people who survived disasters.
Ripley takes a look at our responses, from freezing and remaining completely immobile, to going back to collect things and calm interactions (after terrorists flew into the World Trade Centers, people went to their desks to get a few things, then helped each other down the stairs with an "after you" attitude) to the completely inexplicable acts of heroism. She looks at things from a societal and biological perspective and offers insights into human behavior with a critical and scientific eye.
I am still not sure how much I "enjoyed" this book, but it certainly was eye-opening. Further, The Unthinkable offers insights that enable readers to gauge their own possible responses in a disaster. One of the key findings is that people who survive such moments, and who act well in them are those who have actually considered what they might do in a given situation, how they might escape it, and even how they might help others survive.
I'd suggest paging through this book. And pay attention the next time you're on a plane and the stewards are going over the safety instructions and pointing out exits. It's one of the biggest determinants of who lives and dies in an air disaster. You're welcome.