|(New York) Daily News|
Sandy the Superstorm has laid waste to large chunks of the Eastern Seaboard -- most notably, New York City and the Jersey Shore -- and some people's first reaction is to wonder why the suffering souls they see on the TV news didn't get the hell out of Dodge.
I have some thoughts on that.
They were there because it was home. Was.
They also were there because, generally unused to hurricanes, they couldn't believe how bad the wind and surge could be. And who thought an inferno would start amid the flood? Memories of what happened in New Orleans with Katrina are short . . . except for those of the looting, and of families there who may have escaped the federal flood but were cleaned out by the feral among them whose daily existence is preying upon their neighbors.
That's why they stayed.
Was it a particularly bright idea to stay? Hell, no. But the human instinct is to try to protect what one has worked a lifetime for, and the fear of abandoning one's home oftentimes is greater than the fear of nature's fury.
I'm waiting for someone to wonder why in the world anyone would live in New York, which sits so perilously astride the ocean fierce, which awaits the first opportunity to reclaim it, if but for a short while.You know, just like some people did about New Orleans in Katrina's murderous wake.
It happens every time.
THE ANSWER is the same as that of the citizens of New Orleans, and of the smaller communities of Plaquemines Parish, La., whose homes were sent under the waves by Category 1 Isaac this August. They live there because it's home, the place they know and love . . . and the people they know and love. It is who they are. In large part, it made them who they are.
No matter where you live, you very well could be done in by something -- hurricane, flood, tornado, earthquake, wildfire, drought, tsunami or blizzard. Such is life in this fallen world and on this wild and perilous planet.
I was born and raised in south Louisiana and have lived almost half my life in Nebraska. I know hurricanes, I know tornadoes, too, and I have come to know drought, catastrophic thunderstorms and blizzards. Folks down South wonder why I'd willingly live in a place where summer can bring 110-degree days and winter can hit you with 25-below-zero cold and snow drifts up to your neck.
It's the same reason they refuse to pack up and move because of air you nearly can drink and catastrophes you know by name that blow in off the Gulf of Mexico to try and kill you. It's because Nebraska is home now. I love it, and it's where the people I know and love stand beside me to brave whatever curveball nature chooses to throw at us. Because between the bad times and the peril lies the beauty and the wonder of the Great Plains.
|University of Nebraska-Lincoln|
I imagine the good people of New York and New Jersey feel the same way about endless beaches, the Manhattan skyline, boardwalks and an ocean that stretches beyond the blue horizon. I grew up feeling that way about the Mississippi River, upon which my hometown of Baton Rouge was built 313 years ago.
And the Mississippi can kill you in a New York second in more ways than you can list.
I know why people live on peril's edge in New York and on the Jersey Shore, and I can understand why -- foolish as it ultimately was -- they balked at surrendering their homes and home places to nature's fury without a fight, futile as that usually is.
I suggest that instead of second-guessing people who probably already are second-guessing themselves, we instead hold out a hand -- preferably one filled with cash -- to our brother and sister Americans during their darkest hour.
No man is an island, even though he might live on one, and we never know when we will be next in fate's crosshairs.