In the Face of Disaster
Watching the disaster that is Hurricane Sandy unfold on the east coast, one can’t help but be reminded that for all our technological advances we are no match for mother nature when she chooses to flex her muscles; that while we may have “tamed” her, she can, with one flick of her wrist, sending us scrambling for higher ground.
Even given plenty of warning, there is only so much one can do in the face of something as powerful as a hurricane. And when given no warning, as in the case of the 2004 boxing day Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the 2010 Haitian earthquake or the more recent Tohoku disaster, the effects can be catastrophic.
We may have become adept at capturing natural disasters on our cameras and smart phones—and even blogging about them in real time—but we are no better at surviving them. We are, after all, skin and bone and flesh when it comes down to it, and in many ways weaker and more vulnerable than our less sophistocated ancestors who lived off the land without benefit of the creature comforts that we take for granted.
What is fascinating, though, and telling, is watching how people deal with disasters when they strike. One of the common refrains of those who witnessed the aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami was the way that the survivors coped in the face of utter devastation. The spirit of cooperation was both startling and inspiring and was a tribute to the Japanese people.
Having lived through the terror and uncertainty of 9/11, the people of New York will no doubt rise to the occasion once again, dusting themselves off and setting to work puting their lives back in order, as will the millions of others affected by the storm.
Perhaps it is a mark of one’s character—or collective character of a people—how one deals with disaster when it comes.
And I can’t help but wonder how we on the west coast will cope when the big one hits, as everyone says it will.The earthquake that hit Haida Gwaii this past weekend reminds us that we live on a fault line and are due for one hell of a shake up one of these days. Will we support one another as much as we are able or will it be everyone for his or her self? I hope that we never have to find out, but I fear that we will.