All at once, everything flipped. From the look of things, Hurricane Sandy turned parts of the U.S. into a Third World country. The hurricane was not considerate of any technological, political or social parameters. It proved that even America’s superiority in many arenas was no match for Mother Nature.
A week after reading the Torah portion about Noah and the flood, a flood hit America. This storm managed to paralyze the entire East Coast and raised questions regarding its impact on the upcoming presidential elections, to be held next Tuesday.
Mother Nature’s violent outburst gave us a glimpse of what lies beyond a nation’s confidence. When a hurricane, earthquake or tsunami hits a populated area, it exposes the bitter truth: No one can ever fully prepare for the next natural disaster, but still we are hopeful that human wisdom, somehow, will come up with a way to keep us safe.
It seems that even the U.S. government and America’s technological breakthroughs have yet to come up with a method to withstand and resist natural disasters. You can’t make them go away. At most, you can try to face them with dignity. Sandy was the largest Atlantic superstorm on record. Thousands of flights were canceled; New York and Long Island are disaster areas; dams collapsed; millions were without power; hundreds of thousands were evacuated from their homes; the subway system flooded in New York City and many local residents are waiting on their rooftops for evacuation. Atlantic City was completely flooded and water covered many urban centers not prepared for such an event.
Usually such disasters happen in the Third World, far from the West. At most, the West watches them on television and sends disaster relief. Israel, too, does all it can to help (like after the devastating Haiti earthquake). The world enlists in different ways to help out, and sends teams to remote locations. We all remember the massive tsunami waves, the earthquakes and disasters that destroyed entire regions and killed millions of helpless individuals around the world. But in Third World countries, the damage was always twofold: The disaster would hit unprotected cities, and the victims would be poor, helpless populations.
When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, it miraculously didn’t span the entire coast. In 2006, The New York Times enlisted 300 engineers and storm experts who studied the hurricane and the area’s disaster protection systems. Their investigation concluded that New Orleans’ defenses weren’t up to the challenge, but it looks like even now, seven years later, the U.S. has yet to develop a satisfactory system of protective measures that can prevent the enormous damage caused by storms.
Hurricane Sandy was merciless, honing in on human weaknesses in the heart of the West. An emergency situation can result from terrorism, but the forces of nature will always be there, lurking. It will be interesting to see how the carnage left by Hurricane Sandy impacts the American psyche. What will happen to the iPhone, iPad, satellite nation, with all its gadgets, once it realizes, again, that they can’t really stop a hurricane? The Americans have always viewed themselves as being above nature. In every Hollywood disaster movie, a superhero comes along with an antidote. But this time, there is no superhero. Only great sadness.
This opinion was first published on Israel Hayom