More of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s history with keeping his city prepared for disaster has been coming to light recently. Since the current crisis deals with the pandemic that has now killed more people than the 9/11 attacks, some are asking why there weren’t more preparations in place to deal with something like this. As it turns out, there were people in the Big Apple who did see the possibility of a pandemic striking and they had a good idea of what to do about it in advance.

Way back in 2006, when yet another wave of a unique flu virus was sweeping through Asia, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered a study of the situation and decided to take action. He launched an initiative to prepare New York for such an epidemic and stock up medical supplies as a bulwark against shortfalls the city’s hospitals were predicted to experience. He requested millions of medical facemasks and a stockpile of “between 2,036 and 9,454 ventilators” in anticipation of a worst-case scenario.

Unfortunately, this was happening just as the economy was beginning to tank and they only managed to acquire roughly 500 of the requested ventilators. After that, budget cuts forced most of the rest of the pandemic preparations to be tabled. But hey… at least they got 500 ventilators. That’s got to at least help a bit, right? Nope. As Pro Publica reports this week, some years later when Bill de Blasio had taken over, most of the ventilators had broken down. So the city got rid of them.

In the end, the alarming predictions failed to spur action. In the months that followed, the city acquired just 500 additional ventilators as the effort to create a larger stockpile fizzled amid budget cuts.

Even those extra ventilators are long gone, the health department said on Sunday. The lifesaving devices broke down over time and were auctioned off by the city at least five years ago because the agency couldn’t afford to maintain them.

Today, 14 years after the pandemic plan was released, the death toll from the novel coronavirus is climbing by the hundreds daily, and the shortage of ventilators threatens to push it higher still. On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the city, which entered the crisis with around 3,500 ventilators, would run out of the machines this week.

So there were roughly 500 ventilators in the city stockpile as recently as five years ago, but the city didn’t allocate the necessary funding to repair and maintain them. They were then auctioned off, very likely at a great loss if they were largely nonfunctional. Four years later… boom. The pandemic hits.

This is one of those rare circumstances where I have to demonstrate a bit of sympathy for Bill de Blasio. Every city and state always has limitless demands on limited revenue when trying to manage their budgets. And sadly, as happens in so many cases, spending money on a potential future problem that might happen frequently takes a back seat to dealing with the issues that are actually happening right now.

This is not a problem that’s limited to New York City. Just recently we looked at the federal government’s decision to create a national stockpile of masks and ventilators in 1999. It was a good idea and a noble effort, but the program was only maintained and the stockpiles replenished until roughly 2005. After that, supplies were depleted but George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump all failed to refill those supplies until the current pandemic hit us. Hindsight is 20/20, as the saying goes.

Perhaps this can be used as yet another lesson we need to be learning. Sooner or later we will recover from this pandemic and life will eventually return back to normal. While there is almost nobody left today who remembers the pandemic of 1918, now the country will be full of people who survived the coronavirus. And those people likely won’t mind prioritizing the maintenance of stockpiles of critical medical equipment and the funding of new research, such as plans to significantly hasten the development, testing, and approval of new vaccines that are currently taking place.

Or perhaps I’m just being delusional (again). I’d like to believe that we still have the ability to learn from history and not repeat it, but once people are feeling safe and secure once again, some of us tend to immediately develop amnesia.