This Louisiana Boy is currently just outside of Washington DC, and thankfully my immediate family appears to have weathered Hurricane Sandy well. Devastations by forces of nature are sad regardless of location. I was teaching in Georgia when Hurricane Katrina hit, and luckily got to speak with my Dad on the phone during that storm. He remarked during that call that it might be age making him wiser, but that he felt more anxious in that storm than he had in either Camille or Betsy. As those storms of the 1960s predate me, my personal firsthand comparison of intensity is to Hurricane Andrew.
Being able to locate friends and relatives after Katrina took time with the communication systems being down and overloaded and with many access points back home blocked off. Once the shock of the images I saw streaming video from both WWL and WBRZ who also had Bruce Katz in studio as Channel 26 in New Orleans had evacuated to Baton Rouge, I began paying attention to other people and media outlets. There is no reason to rehash any of the particular vitriol here, but it was disheartening. Later, I found it off-putting that so much attention was being placed on the city of New Orleans itself with little being said of the smaller towns and rural communities which were hit just as hard. Earlier this year, many of my friends suffered more damage from Hurricane Isaac than they had from Katrina, Rita, and Gustav combined. Since these are rural areas and not huge population centers, the media coverage was less than that given to these other storms.
What’s the difference?
My point is that regardless of location and regardless of storm the damage is the same to those in that area. People in New Orleans during Katrina were no different than people in New York during Sandy. I find no difference in Ocean City, Maryland, to Grand Isle, Louisiana, as to the harm caused by the surge. I don’t care if you are from the Gulf Coast or Atlantic Coast, you are the same in that if you suffer a loss it is still a loss regardless of location. Likewise, the loss is the same if it were caused by earthquake, tornado, or any force of nature. I experienced my first earthquake here in DC (if you don’t count Tiger Stadium and Hodson to Eddie Fuller as kid), and cannot fathom what a stronger quake would be like. I’ve seen numerous tornadoes and water spouts which caused significant damage and will never forget the sight and sound of a small twister going over the water tower when I was in elementary school. Still, I cannot grasp the magnitude of one of those massive tornadoes that spring up on the Plains. Every location has its own advantages and dangers, and people in these areas do not choose to be damaged by a force of nature.
Geography, gender, race, religion, personal preferences, conservative, moderate, liberal, or any shade of political gray because despite claims practically anyone and everyone can be labeled with any political moniker, we are no different when it comes to being touched by a natural disaster. It’s not a time to point fingers or foster dividedness; it’s a time to realize that we are all brothers, sisters, and neighbors. By offering assistance, comfort, kind thoughts, prayers, or anything positive, we assist not only others but ourselves because we are not islands unto ourselves.
Media outlets please understand that people already know about the forces of nature. Even if you have not experienced the specific type of event, you have something where an acceptable comparison can be made. When the media acts like idiots standing on a crumbling levee, in a flooded street with rushing water, next to a body of water where a surge or wave can sweep you under in less than a second, out in the middle of gusting winds, you are not reporting the news. You are putting yourself in danger by relying upon sensationalism; you are encouraging some idiot to do the same; you are calling out all fools who want to be on camera; you are endangering not just your life, the lives of your crew, and the fools and idiots. You are also endangering the lives of those professionals and volunteers who are already sacrificing their safety for the well being of others. You are also diverting the time and attention of these brave and selfless individuals from assisting people who did not chose to put themselves in danger. A media figure and meteorologist like Nicole Mitchell, formerly of the Weather Channel, and Hurricane hunters and others like her are individuals to respect; my old high school buddy and current Fire Chief of one of the volunteer Fire Departments back home and his crew are individuals to respect; that person who helps another even if it is merely checking to see if a neighbor needs anything are individuals to respect. Those in the media who are able to accurately convey information and dangers without sensationalism are individuals to respect. Those who simply seek the sensationalistic pop are fools and idiots.