Listening to the radio while driving this morning, I heard presidential foreign policy advisor Richard Holbrook describe how our government is renewing its focus on national security in light of the "near miss" incident of Christmas Day, when an Al Qaeda terrorist tried to ignite a compound stashed in his underpants.
I'm frequently astonished that people of prominence (this time, Holbrooke) use the confusing expression "near miss," causing me to wonder why.
Isn't a'“near miss"‚ “hit?"
Wasn't it a "near miss" when a United Airline flight struck the Pentagon, or one of the World Trade Center buildings? Or, when my son, a college pitcher, ended a thriller last season when his two out, ninth inning 2 -2 curve angled across the plate, causing the umpire to loudly proclaim “STRIKE!" – didn't Mitch "nearly miss" - or hit - the strike zone on that pitch?
Or, do we use the term a “near miss" so as to distinguish it from a “far miss?" For instance, if astrologists were to identify a meteor that they predict will come within 80,000 miles of the earth a “near miss," would they also describe a meteor coming within a million miles a “far miss?"
Or, using an example involving the threat imposed by terrorists, if law enforcement officials were to apprehend an airplane terrorist a dozen miles away from the airport, say, on a routine traffic stop, would the press characterize the foiled plot as a “far miss?"
I appreciate that the media and public officials pay so much attention to near misses involving terrorism. Our heightened focus causes officials to scrutinize what nearly went wrong, and try to take additional measures to avert future disasters. Near misses are good. The beauty of one is that we don't suffer the tragedy: lives are not lost, taxpayers save countless millions since there is nothing to clean up, nor do we suffer the other many awful consequences of these disastrous events. “Near misses" allow us the benefit - the enhanced education, improved screening policies and procedures, yet we don't have to go about suffering the actual loss.
I remember once when driving on a busy street, impulsively I decided to make a sudden right turn at an upcoming intersection. Being in the middle lane, I started veering into the right lane until I heard a car horn behind me from the right hand lane that I was about to turn into. Realizing my error, I immediately swerved back into the middle lane and continued driving straight, missing the right turn. My eyes gazed directly in front of me, as I made sure not to glance at the driver whose car I almost hit as he passed me on my right.
I can only imagine the mean spirited look of disgust that awaited me if I did look, not to mention the extended middle finger of whichever hand of his was not holding the steering wheel.
Though I don't pray often, I do remember praying that time, thanking God for sparing me that accident. At its worse, I thought, it could have been severe; at it's best, a nuisance. I vowed to learn from that incident - in the future plan my route more carefully, avoid making last second impulsive decisions, and always leave enough time to activate my control signal and look behind me before changing lanes.
In prayer, I thought to myself "Dear God. Thank you for sparing me from the consequences of this stupid driving decision. Thank you for granting me this opportunity to reflect and learn from my near miss."
I hope God understood. Perhaps I should have been clearer and used the term "near hit?"