Over the past dozen years, the United States has become a chastened nation. Against our collective will, cataclysmic events pushed us to a heretofore unseen place of reflection and guardedness. Propelling this journey were two indelible events: September 11, 2001; and Hurricane Katrina. As we brace for the wrath of Hurricane Isaac, fear and foreboding well up around us.

Over the past dozen years, the United States has become a chastened nation. Against our collective will, cataclysmic events pushed us to a heretofore unseen place of reflection and guardedness. Propelling this journey were two indelible events: September 11, 2001; and Hurricane Katrina. As we brace for the wrath of Hurricane Isaac, fear and foreboding well up around us.

Perhaps unkind history has made us better prepared to face possible calamity. We buy another loaf of bread. We put gas in the car. We charge our cellphones. We brace against a foe we cannot fully predict.

Occasionally, history gives us a brief sigh of relief, as when Seal Team Six dispatched Osama bin Laden. Somehow just knowing he was no longer out there made the world feel a little safer.

When dealing with natural disaster, we get no such relief. At least with an impending hurricane, there is advance warning. Through the aid of computer models, meteorologists are able to predict probable paths. While prediction isn’t perfect, it allows us time to gird against the onslaught.

One wonders what the people of New Orleans and Gulfport must now be thinking as Isaac pushes over them. Are the post-Katrina improvements sufficient? Will the same mistakes be made?

Experience is often a bitter teacher because we get the test before we’re taught the lesson. Even so, Americans have shown an indomitable spirit since our forebears first crossed from other lands. Whenever adversity presents itself, we somehow manage to persevere.

The poet, Virgil, once wrote, “Come what may, all bad fortune is to be conquered by endurance.”

Seems, we as a nation have taken his admonishment to heart. Through wars, epidemics, depressions and dust bowls, we pull ourselves together and do what must be done.

Our leaders in Washington appear to have a better handle on things than those of the Katrina era. In a campaign speech on Tuesday, President Barack Obama said, “When disaster strikes, we’re not Democrats or Republicans first, we are Americans first. We’re one family. We help our neighbors in need.”

All one need do to see proof of that is go to a Red Cross shelter in the middle of a disaster. Nobody asks you how you vote. They just give you some coffee, a blanket and empathy.

According to Obama, preparations against Isaac’s potential destruction have been under way for days. The president also warned Gulf Coast residents to listen to local authorities and follow their directions.

“Now is not the time to tempt fate. Now is not the time to dismiss official warnings. You need to take this seriously,” he said.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Obama had already declared that an emergency exists in Mississippi on Tuesday and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local storm response efforts there. The president also declared a state of emergency in Louisiana late Monday. The declaration makes federal support available to save lives, protect public health and safety and preserve property in coastal areas.

While such declarations — and all the preparation in the world — are no guarantee of good outcomes, they certainly buttress the chances for them. In the meantime, we will buy the bread, put fresh batteries in the radio, gas up the car and dig in as we always do.