Officials were right to be cautious about Hurricane Irene
By Rabbi Ben Kamin
SAN DIEGO — When Katrina all but drowned New Orleans starting six years this very day, media pundits and animated politicians followed with serious criticism of the federal and state responses and glaring lack of preparedness. A great deal of focus fell upon President George W. Bush’s evident aloofness and failure to empathize, let alone mobilize a competent reaction to the devastating suffering of countless Americans. History—and many dead bodies—bore out this collective excoriation.
Vermont is still gasping for life, New Jersey is still drenched in floodwaters and destroyed homes, North Carolina remains in a fractured disarray of destroyed businesses, bridges, and beaches. At this moment, there are some 26 fatalities, including an 11-year old killed at home by a falling tree; forty million Americans are without power up and down eastern seaboard.
Yet the prevailing themes on outlets including NBC Today, CNN, and even NPR have to do with the question: did the authorities “over-prepare” and perhaps even waste or squander resources in view of Irene’s supposed lack of thump? Even I enjoyed the sanguine and defiant nature of many New Yorkers in view of the storm’s coming impact, but the swagger of those lucky denizens who were spared (while quite a few were definitively not, especially in lower Manhattan, Staten Island and Long Island) is already maddening. This was not a Red Sox-Yankees series; it was a contest of life and death.
Nobody in my family suffered in any way matching the mothers, fathers, and children who lost their houses or, God help them, their loved ones during this catastrophic event. I worried about my daughter living in Brooklyn and fretted over my wife who has been stranded in Maine. Does the fact that they both are okay imply anybody’s over-preparedness? Shall we introduce this discussion to the family of the twenty-year old woman who was washed away to a terrible cold death in her car in a rushing Connecticut river?
The loss of even one life marks the beginning of tragedy. This prattle on television and elsewhere about if and how we over-hyped or miscalculated the power of Hurricane Irene is both useless and cynical. The fact is that the meteorological community tracked the storm with clockwork accuracy, thus surely helping countless people to survive. The airlines were prudent and if passengers were inconvenienced, they were not killed. Elected authorities, from the mayors, governors, and up to President Obama acted with caution and judiciousness.
We spent a lot more last week on getting Americans killed in Afghanistan than in saving citizens in New England.
Rabbi Kamin is a freelance writer based in San Diego. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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