September 26, 2001 11:00 pm

The Union County Chamber of Commerce is pulling together resources that deal with emergency preparedness. The chamber will bring representatives of a variety of organizations together for a community forum at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the La Grande Middle School commons. The forum will provide anyone who is concerned about emergency preparedness a chance to find out just how ready our community is to handle disaster man-caused or otherwise.

Due to the terrorist attacks on the East Coast, the chamber changed the focus of its October general membership meeting so that the topic addressed could better reflect the times and the needs of citizens. As Union County Commissioner Colleen MacLeod said, Everything in the world is different now. The public is encouraged to attend.

The forum makes sense. The tragedy that occurred Sept. 11 has caused everyone to stop and think about how ready their community might be if a tragedy were to strike. Most people might wonder: Do we have an emergency preparedness plan? Would we have the resources available to respond quickly? Would the government and private sectors be able to work together?

We live in an area that we assume would be out of the crosshairs of terrorists. Yet the Umatilla Chemical Depot is but 90 miles away, and Hanford is just a little farther up the road. And of course there are the dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers that provide power to most of the Northwest. Shipments of hazardous waste, chemicals and gasoline are passing through the county by truck and rail all the time.

But terrorist actions arent all we have to fear. Natural disasters are always a possibility, too. The Sept. 11 tragedy delivered a wake-up call to our sense of preparedness. We cant take our comfort for granted. Not anymore.

Letters on a roll

The Observer, like most newspapers around the country, has been besieged with letters to the editor and guest columns since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. We are trying to run as many of them each day as space allows, but we still have a backlog.

The Observer, unlike many newspapers, is committed to publishing most of the letters it receives. Under normal circumstances, that isnt a problem.

In the past two weeks weve received so many letters that its going to take a few days to get them all into print. Bear with us. As we all know only too well, these arent normal circumstances.

The letters and comments are important. Keep sending them our way.