Step Away from the Keyboard

TUCKER HOTTES reminds us that mother nature always gives us perspective


Offer help to those in need
Every once in a while, we’re faced with a reminder of just how tiny and helpless our civilization can be. We’ve managed to put human outposts on just about every corner of the planet, and have massive cities and infrastructures to support the nearly seven billion people living on our little space rock. In spite of all our technical achievements and engineering accomplishments, though, nature every now and then lets us know who’s boss.
Nobody seemed to have any illusion that the weather was going to give the Northeast a beating as the reports of a hurricane combining with an early winter storm started to roll in. The comparisons were made to 1991’s “Perfect Storm,” which seemed to me a little bit disingenuous even before Sandy hit this week — after all, that particular weather event never made landfall. As a comparison, roughly 38,000 people total were left without power during the “Perfect Storm.” According to the Times-Tribune, as of Tuesday afternoon there were 150,000 people without power in northeastern Pennsylvania alone. CNN reported 7.5 million people total had no electricity.
The lack of power can range widely for many people. In some cases, it might be a minor inconvenience (or even, as some friends have posted on Facebook, an excuse for a party). For others, it can mean life or death (people with medical conditions, for example, may rely on critical equipment in their homes). The long-term effects from widespread power outages are difficult to predict or account for, but the immediate property damage caused by high winds and downed trees can be devastating. On the coast, where the storm surge was even higher than worst-case scenario predictions, some people have lost their homes and there will be places where ‘beachfront’ property no longer exists. The strong tides and storm surge can actually reshape the coastline.
While our region was spared from the kind of widespread flooding that occurred in 2011 during hurricane Irene, many of our neighbors and family are dealing with the property damage and power outages. Many people know all too well the devastation of flooding, and the difficult and sometimes heartbreaking process of rebuilding or walking away from property entirely.
It can be easy to dismiss the magnitude of tragedy that affects others during a natural disaster, and when we aren’t (directly) affected it’s tough to wrap our heads around what’s going on in others’ lives. I was thankful that I was spared any direct effects from this storm, but I have many, many friends throughout this region and in New York and New Jersey who will be going through the long and arduous process of recovery.
Nature can be, and often is, extremely beautiful. But it’s easy to take for granted until we have a strong reminder that, in the global context, we humans are very fragile. Our buildings can be toppled by wind, or flooded in spite of our precautions, or damaged by the trees we grew up climbing.
My thoughts are with anyone who was affected this week, and I hope all our readers will join me. Please be mindful of your neighbors, offer up a hot meal and shower, or just lend some sympathy. We’re all equally fragile, and we can never know when it might be our own lives that are affected.

  • harpep

    Y’know Tucker, I’ve been reading your stuff for years now. As a fellow tech-er, the content is of interest, but the quality of the writing and, as now evidenced, the mindset behind it have been what keep me coming back. Great sentiment, well said. Thanks. Pat Harper

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