Catastrophe is a powerful agent for invention. More than gadgets like the Rescue Reel and SeatChute, which conjure up an almost super-hero-like fantasy, ever since September 11 entrepreneurs and scientists (and some who wear both hats) have been quietly plodding away at a variety of ideas, mechanisms, and processes designed to make the world a better, safer place.
The devastation catalyzed new concepts in community, industrial design, architecture, and safety protocols that may serve to preventâ€”or at least mitigateâ€”future calamities. Similarly Hurricane Katrina inspired new ideas about urban planning, like grinding up storm debris to raise city elevation.
Scott Heiferman, co-founder and CEO of Meetup, a New York-based web start-up that facilitates in-person meetings for people with shared interests, says the idea for his company was spawned by September 11.
“When the towers fell, I found myself talking to more neighbors in the days after 9/11 than ever before,” he says in an e-mail statement. “People said hello to neighbors (next-door and across the city) who they’d normally ignore. People were looking after each other, helping each other, and meeting up with each other. A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring people together in a lasting way.”