Hurricanes Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow

The goal is not to control the weather but to consider changing the apathetic atmosphere in which we are taught to accept the inevitable. Although sandbags and flashlights have been proven to be effective in hurricanes, I wonder what other weapons we could have in our arsenal to battle those hurricanes. As I listened to the media reports telling the people of the City of New York to prepare for the possibility of being flooded out by Hurricane Irene, I am reminded of Hurricane Hazel in 1954. My mother’s name was Hazel, and after Hurricane Hazel touched down, my mother never lived it down. However, when it dawned on us, a few days after the storm was over, that we had dodged the bullet, my mother’s name triggered a sense of pride. We knew we had battened down the hatches and had come through it. New Yorkers proved once again they could take it – still being in the game was all that mattered.

However my mother and father looked at life differently. They had lived through several other potentially cataclysmic events in the past and couldn’t believe so little had changed. After all, this was the 50s. Where was the technology? We had invented DDT, which my mother refused to use, the atomic bomb, and the hydrogen bomb. Yet, we were still accepting that the electricity would probably go out because a storm was coming in. We gave in to the fact that a tree ripped up by the roots, because of gusts of wind, could come bounding down on us, from out of nowhere, and slam us into the ground like a pancake. The fact that we could possibly wind up 7 feet under was something we tried not to think about. Our subconscious, however, hoped that if a tragedy had to happen, it would happen to someone else. Survival of the fittest was the unspoken word in 1954. There seemed to be a deluge of sink or swim philosophy that taught people to know that they just had to suck it up and deal. Has our thinking changed in 2011?

I was 7 back in 1954, when Hurricane Hazel was on the way to my old neighborhood in Flushing, New York City. My mother and father kept insisting everything was going down the drain, because we were depending on outdated resources and ignoring the needs of the people while creating an economy dependent on weapons of war. President Eisenhower soon would say our nation’s economy was in danger of depending on weapons sales, which would be a threat to our national security. The dire economic warnings that President Eisenhower talked about seems to have gone unheeded, and our philosophy regarding the survival of the fittest seems to have become even more entrenched. In this technically advanced nation, is our thinking behind the times? Are we fueling fires because of unenlightened thinking? Or is it that we have been taught not to think?

Today at age 64, I can recently recall that I have been afraid more than once about the possibility of an impending disaster over which I should have had control, but didn’t. My only option instead was to suck it up and deal. For instance, more than once, after receiving a tornado warning while sitting in my middle-class townhouse in North Carolina, which is surrounded by trees, with no basement and a tiny half bathroom downstairs, I have shuttered at the possibility of a tornado touching down and my having no real place to take cover. Since there is no space under my stairs and no inner rooms in my house, I knew there was nothing to do but to wait until the tornado blew over, or I was blown to bits, or the tornado touched down somewhere else. There were no technical advances upon which I could rely or any kind of reasonable shelter to protect me.

Today, we have bombs, drones, nuclear power plants and deadly weapons that are capable of ending life as we know it. We landed on the moon in 1969. Are we exploring future uses of technology wisely and taking charge of life on Earth? Or are we going through life, relying on the past, ruling out a future with logical, productive innovation and instead simply dreaming up new ways to figure out how to suck it up and deal? Could there be more to life than just playing the cards we are dealt? Think about it.

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