Monday, October 28, 2013

Sandy: One Year Later

When I lost power that Monday afternoon, I was unaware of the carnage that was being visited upon the New York / New Jersey area. Outside, Superstorm Sandy, the largest hurricane to hit the northeast since 1938, was just making landfall. With nothing but a few flashlights and a portable radio, my wife and I hunkered down and rode out the storm. Luckily, save for a couple of branches on our front lawn, we survived unscathed.

That was more than could be said for many. Sandy had devastated much of the shoreline of Long Island and New Jersey. Lower Manhattan was under water. Tens of thousands of homes and businesses were either destroyed or damaged and hundreds of thousands more were without electricity and, in some cases, running water. It would take weeks before full power could be restored to the region and many more months before the damage that those homes and businesses sustained was repaired.

When the dust finally settled, Sandy ended up being the second costliest hurricane on record to the tune of $68 billion. Only Katrina, at $128 billion, topped it. In all, 286 people lost their lives, more than half of them American citizens in the epicenter of the storm's fury.

In every way imaginable, Sandy was our Katrina: the knockout punch that we always knew was out there, but never believed would touch us. A year earlier, Irene gave us a scare, but, in the end, save for some inland flooding, it turned out to be a non-event for a majority of residents. This time we caught the bullet. This time there was nowhere to run and hide.

It is said that in New Orleans, the biggest feeling exhibited by most of the population, other than  profound sadness at the loss of life, was that of shock and awe at what nature had just unleashed upon their beloved city. Now, for the first time, New Yorkers and New Jerseyans knew firsthand what it felt like to be part of a human tragedy. No longer were we simply spectators to other people's suffering; now we were part of the main event. Death and destruction had landed on our front porch and, in some cases, in our very living rooms. After eight decades of near misses, fate finally caught up to us.

One year later, Sandy stands as a testament to the hubris of those who naively believed they were impervious to the effects of the elements. If we have learned anything from all this it is that attempting to reason with or tame the forces of nature is as foolish as the man who builds an "unsinkable" ship. Sooner or later an iceberg is bound to come along and wreck his plans.


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