It’s probably just me, but does anyone else have a problem with the festivities underway in San Francisco to "observe" the 100th anniversary of the "Great Quake"?
The morning shows were chock-a-block today with marching bands, jazz ensembles and other performers cavorting in the background as San Francisco Mayor Newsom held one interview after another, grinning from ear to ear as he described the various events being held in the City by the Bay. The New York Times says the hoopla is the brainchild of Charlotte Mailliard Shultz, chief of protocol for the City of San Francisco and the State of California, and says she’s the one responsible for "…striking the right tone" for the anniversary.
In addition to a reunion of survivors, all of whom were too young to recall anything about the quake, the City held a massive ball at the Palace Hotel that apparently included people dressed in period costumers and Enrico Caruso look-alikes (btw, talk about a tough way to earn a buck! Aside from Quake re-enactment events, there can’t be too much demand for Caruso look-alikes nowadays). In addition to the galas, there’s also been some cool computer simulation footage that shows how SF would fare if a similar quake should rattle the city today.
All of this obviously makes for great media buzz, since newscasters revel in tragedy. It’s also probably doing wonders for San Fran’s tourist trade, but what about the 3,000 poor souls who lost their lives in the 1906 disaster? It seems to me that, in their rush to create a media feeding frenzy, the fine folks from Frisco have badly mistreated the memories of the victims and their families.
On the other hand, Ms. Shultz, the protocol chief responsible for today’s festivities, has accumulated some serious marketing and special event credentials in the process. Just imagine the kind of kick-ass business model she could develop if she turned her attention to the plethora of other mega tragedies from the archives of U.S. History.
If I were Ms. Shultz, I’d start a special events company specializing in "commemorating" horrific events from yesteryear. I’d name my firm "Blast from the past" and take it on the road. Just imagine the year-round business: there’s the great Galveston hurricane and flood that killed more than twice the number of people who died in the SF quake. Or, how about the great Chicago fire? What about special events to trivialize the Challenger disaster? Major plane crashes? Hurricane Katrina? Or, of course, the mother of all disasters, 9/11?
My point is that I think San Francisco went overboard in its 100th anniversary and, from an image and reputation standpoint, set a bad precedent. It’s critically important to remember and mark these events, to learn from them and to try to do everything possible to ensure they don’t happen again. But brass bands, parades and Caruso look-alikes are just too far over the (fault) line for me.