|No Name Storm of 1991|
The statistics of loss, damage and destruction are not really the important thing to those who are affected by these events, and hurricanes are not the only events that give rise to the lessons I'm thinking of. How many people and animals are lost and injured, how much property damage there has been, how long it takes to get things back in some kind of order... these are all matters that become abstractions at the individual and family level of people trying to adjust and survive in the midst of chaos and greater or lesser disruption.
The trauma is really what affects the people who live through these events. I remember, for example, how traumatized my mother was by the 1925 earthquake in Santa Barbara. She was a teen-ager at the time, and apparently her mother was trapped for a while in a collapsed building. My mother didn't know where her mother was, though, and she was terrified. The trauma never left her for the rest of her life. It was obvious in her eyes when she told me about it decades later.
It seems that most of those who lived through the wrath of The Storm this time did not actually suffer loss -- apart from, perhaps, some inconvenience of some sort. Many are apparently taking it in stride, in part because they are OK and everyone they know is OK. They have what they need and are able to carry on well enough in the midst of the chaos.
But there are so many others who can't. Their routine is completely disrupted. Perhaps they have no home any more. Their treasured things are gone. They've lost loved ones. They can't find their pets. Their clothes are ruined or they can't get to their jobs. They're out of food and water. On and on. The disruption and the loss from The Storm -- or from any stupendous event -- can be overwhelming.
Unfortunately, there are too many people who seek their own advantage at the expense of the victims who are overwhelmed by the disruption and loss others have experienced. These are the carrion feeders and predators who are always among us. They look forward to seeing others in such distress or so overwhelmed, they make easy prey.
We saw this horrifyingly in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina -- which doesn't seem so very long ago now. Whether we will see it in the aftermath of Sandy remains to be seen, but from a distance the mood and the spirit seems to be quite different. Well, except for a certain smirking former Massachusetts governor who decides to collect food at campaign events in Ohio -- food which none of the helping agencies want or need. The sight of it is stomach churning.
Meanwhile for those who have "lost everything and who are trying to pick up the pieces," the legacy of The Storm will last the rest of their lives. Most of that legacy is trauma and loss, but some of it-- the survival part of that legacy -- is the chance for something new. Not everyone can handle or wants that. But those who can and do may find the legacy of The Storm to be energizing.
I just hope that those who have lost loved ones, homes, livelihoods, ways of life and so on are not further victimized -- as many of the survivors of Katrina were -- by predators and carrion feeders, such as that smirking doofus. Things are tough enough for them already.