Hurricane Irene is pounding the Eastern Seaboard as I write this blog.
Any time I think of a hurricane, I think of my experience in Hurricane Celia, in Aug. 3, 1970. It was a category 4 hurricane. I was back then a writer and photographer for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times newspaper. The Caller-Times still carries images I shot with my Nikon Nikkormat FTN 35mm camera. (See them here …)
If I knew on the morning of Aug. 3 what I learned by nightfall that same day, I would have fled Corpus Christi. However, I worked for a newspaper. I had a sense that perhaps this is what we in the media do — report on disasters. So I stayed. I got some great photographs. However, I should have left.
I spent six hours huddled in a single room with eight strangers. The roof was blown off. Water was streaming down the walls. There was no electricity, which was good since the water was ankle deep in the apartment. I should have fled before the storm!
Back then we — the disaster survivors — had a feeling of being drawn closer together with our neighbors and coworkers.
Some people couldn’t cope. One was my wife. She went back home to her family near Waco.
I lost a lot. It cost me a lot of money. The Caller-Times paid me for the day I missed work to find another apartment.
Everything is different today.
I get a sense that many see disasters as an “opportunity” to gain federal largesse. Didn’t the victims of 911 “get rich”? That’s arguable. They did get a lot of money. But by the time Hurricane Katrina news spread that many stayed to perhaps get federal money. The Democrats used the slow response as a opportunity … to criticize President George W. Bush, who was comfortable at his ranch in Texas.
Some of the victims of Katrina expected money. They received debit cards instead of cash. Rumormongers used the opportunity to make up stories about how the levees around New Orleans were dynamited. None of it was true, but it was reported. Many still believe that to be true today.
Irene is skirting the Eastern seaboard. Perhaps no hurricane has ever threatened such a large population. Officials have pleaded with residents to flee. Many refuse to leave, according to news reports .
Many always refuse to leave when disasters are imminent. That is natural. Will many more stay, hoping to get more out of the “opportunity” for federal money? I sense that they will.
Year in and year out, living on the Texas coast is very nice. The winters are mild. The water is warm. The beaches are clean and the sand is white. The fishing is great! The food is delicious.
However, coastal areas are potentially dangerous. Someday every seashore will see a disaster whether it is wind or tsunami. The smart ones know that. The smart ones leave when disasters come.
Will people in the path of Irene see it as an “opportunity” or a disaster?