Schools have a prominent place in the history of earthquake preparedness for good reason. Children are our most precious citizens, and the buildings in which they spend their days must protect them from all varieties of harm. The 1933 Long Beach earthquake was a "near miss" experience that destroyed dozens of school buildings just after the end of classes. The eruption of public opinion that followed, informed by scientists, caused the rapid enactment of strong standards in California.
Now Portland, Oregon has the chance to make similar progress by voting for a bond issue to retrofit its oldest school buildings. Robert Yeats, the dean of civic earthquake awareness in this country, has weighed in at The Oregonian urging a yes vote. Every city in earthquake country that tries to take protective measures must fight human nature: we've been fine so far, it's expensive, surely things couldn't be that bad, and so on. Just as dealing with the prospect of one's personal death takes maturity, so does dealing with the inevitability of earthquakes.