Among the lessons most of us were taught when we were growing up is to look for the silver lining in every cloud. We tell our children to turn a challenge into an opportunity and adversity into advantage.
Still, there was something unnerving about a forbes.com headline that suggested the misery and devastation left by Hurricane Katrina could be a business boon for Detroit: "Is New Orleans' Loss Detroit's Gain?"
It was a typical business article. In the aftermath of any major event, it's important to assess the effects and the likely outcome.
But the forbes.com article began: "Some of the most unsettling images from the wake of Hurricane Katrina have been of cars submerged by floodwaters."
No. Absolutely not.
The pictures may be unsettling, but there is no way they're more moving than the images of suffering people, destroyed homes and disheveled lives. And that doesn't even include the bodies.
I don't mean to pick on forbes.com. The rest of the article was balanced and concluded there probably wouldn't be a windfall for the auto industry. In journalism, even the most thoughtfully written and rigorously edited article can convey unintended messages. It has happened to me.
Yes, as many as 500,000 vehicles may have been damaged and eventually will need replacing. That will happen if and when the victims can afford them after whatever insurance they had pays off.
But let's also remember that an estimated 200 dealerships in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama likely have been damaged or destroyed and will be unable to reopen for months. Those dealership employees are at least temporarily out of work. Many lost their homes. Some undoubtedly lost loved ones.
A few may have lost their lives.
The outpouring of support from automakers, suppliers, dealer associations and others affiliated with the auto industry shows the true character of the business and what really matters.
After all, cars and trucks are only the second-most-important part of the auto industry.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at