Risk Reassessment

As the Bush administration scares America witless, San Francisco might offer a model for living well in the shadow of apocalypse

"Just a minute; I'm looking something up," he said, staring into his computer as I walked into his office. "Ah. That's it -- 66,000. Sixty-six thousand people have died in automobile accidents since 9/11."

The image of a fear-mongering piece of anti-car propaganda flashed through my brain. And then we went to lunch at Tu Lan, San Francisco's best Asian restaurant. Befitting this fearless city, it's located on the west end of Sixth Street, one of the most dangerous parts of town. Over chicken salad I learned that Snyder is one of those San Franciscans who know exactly where the city's water storage tanks are, so he can access them following an earthquake's carnage. He described conversations he'd had with San Francisco friends about the composition of natural-disaster preparedness kits: It's best to include water, because reservoirs will likely break, he said.

I asked Snyder what sort of moral one might draw from the news that San Francisco terrorism risk, plus San Francisco natural disaster risk, equals the most dangerous place in the world.

"It means that you should be prepared, but you shouldn't be afraid. If you let fear take control, you allow yourself to be manipulated by people like John Ashcroft," he said. He drew a circle on my reporter's notebook with the word "fear" inside, then drew a line through it.

"Just two words," he said. "No fear."

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