Friday, April 19, 2019

It’s too easy to say, ‘Bob did it’ — Chicago safety experts on Notre Dame fire

     Opportunities for do-overs are rare in the column biz. The scribbling finger of Time rushes on, and each new situation tends to be unique.
     But sometimes the chance does arise. When Notre Dame Cathedral burned in Paris Monday, I leaped onto social media, with everyone else, saying the first thing to pop into mind, like everybody else.
     “How could this happen?” The question answers itself. The scaffolding! It was the roofers. I remembered a column written in 2006 when the Pilgrim Baptist Church burned, inspiring me to flip open my tool box and grab the 2-pound sarcasm drilling hammer: “… city officials speculated that roofers working on the church just might have touched off the blaze. Gee, ya think?” I wrote, almost gleeful. “You mean the guys with blowtorches working at the exact spot the fire broke out? Now there’s a theory. It’s ALWAYS the roofers …”
     Chicago is a city of laborers, contractors, masons, pipe fitters, plumbers, iron workers, crane operators, site foremen and, yes, roofers. Perhaps some after-echo of every single one of them looking up from their Sun-Times in 2006 and muttering“schmuck” caused me to set down the hammer, pick up a phone and actually do my job.
     “It’s awfully easy to say, ‘Oh, Bob did it,'” said Tim Fisher, director of the American Society of Safety Professionals, based in Park Ridge. “I was a firefighter. I’ve investigated hundreds of incidents, and very rarely did I find an incident caused because of negligence — usually something went with it, a series of circumstances that compile.”
     For example?
     Fisher recalled a fire where a cement mixer shorted out and set fire to lumber stacked nearby.
     The blame belonged … where? To the guy in charge of maintaining the mixer? The person running it? The worker who stacked the lumber? Or the foreman overseeing them all?
     “In this organization, we don’t believe in blaming the worker,” Fisher said. “We believe a lot in identifying what we call the ‘key factor.'”

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  1. I've now come across at least 6 articles written by Jews of all people, obsessing over this building.
    as a Jewish atheist, I don't give a damn about it, hoped it fell down & the breathless articles & tv pieces on the so-called "artifacts' saved are beyond ridiculous since they're undoubtedly, all fakes!

    1. Wow, Clark. What about the art and architecture and the History? That's cold.

  2. You're not representing atheists very well, Clark St. Are you including my column among those "obsessing" over the building? I thought I was discussing the cause of the fire. What's the point of freeing yourself from the fog of faith if it just leads to another kind of moral blindness? If you don't see the value of Notre Dame Cathedral, I would suggest you re-evaluate your worldview. For a second, I thought your remarks had to be from FME.

    1. He used to be a regular commentator, but became so tediously negative I took to deleting everything he wrote and, eventually, he got the message, though still circles back from time to time.

    2. He's not representing Jews very well either. (I am Jewish and watching that blaze made my heart ache.)

  3. The irony of Clark St.'s complaining about Jews obsessing about the destruction of an ancient structure lies in the fact that people who self identify as Jews, whether or not they buy the religion, adhere to cultural traditions that go back millennia.

    A backslid Presbyterian myself, I have visited many of the great cathedrals in Europe, was moved not by a religious message but by what they represent in terms of human achievement, and would greatly regret their destruction.


  4. Where was that antenna,Mr. S? The co-ordinates indicate it's somewhere in the vicinity of Pal-Waukee Airport, AKA Executive Airport, which is north of Latitude 42N and west of Longitude 87W (as is all of the Chicago area. No luck finding it on Google Earth.

    When I lived in South Evanston, I learned that my east-west street sat right on the 42 line. There was even a "42N" marker embedded in the sidewalk that ran alongside of Sheridan Road--which was how I made my discovery.

    Another bit of trivia: the US-Canada border intersects the 42nd parallel directly north of Cleveland, about 25 miles from the Lake Erie shoreline. If I started walking due north from my house, I would eventually cross into Canadian waters at that very spot. I would also drown.

    1. That "42N" marker is in the wrong place. The closest street to 42, 0", 0', is Devon Ave., which is almost directly on the 42nd Parallel.

    2. It was embedded in the sidewalk that runs along the east side of Sheridan Road, about a block north of the intersection with South Boulevard, which becomes Oakton west of the Evanston 'L" line. That is a difference of about two miles from Devon Ave. National Geographic maps place the 42nd parallel north of the Chicago city limits, after which it runs through Lake Michigan, southern Lower Michigan,and the middle of Lake Erie. It then becomes the New York-Pennsylvania border as it continues east.

      Rand McNally maps show the same thing. I grew up a couple of blocks from their corporate headquarters, and worked in their printing plant next door, which was also across the street from my elementary school. So I'd put my money on South Evanston, not Rogers Park. Rand McNally doesn't usually make those kinds of mistakes.


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