Archived Story

Extreme situations reveal best in us

Published 10:27am Saturday, November 3, 2012

The world watched as “superstorm” Sandy slammed into the northeast this week, causing the most damage on the New Jersy and New York shorelines.

Sandy will surely claim scores of lives and wind up costing the U.S. billions of dollars … and at the same time spur growth and new building in the northeast for years to come.

Photos and comments from the disaster area sound all too familiar to Lake Martin area residents. We’re still cleaning from the April, 2011 superstorm; the scars on our landscape and our psyche are still fresh. And our community has suffered greatly, too. We lost friends, hundreds of homes here were damaged or destroyed outright. But honestly, the end of the Great Recession lost some of its punch in our region as insurance money flowed into the Lake area and people got to work rebuilding here.

Other comparisons to the two events are also obvious.

On the same day that the F4 tornado raked across our home, scores of other tornados caused even more damage in other areas of the state, especially to our north and most notably in Tuscaloosa. Lake area residents remember that most of the world was watching Alabama, but not our part of the state. And we remember that politicians spent lots of time and effort focusing on the storm-damaged areas, but it was days later before the Lake Martin area got much attention.

The same experience is going on now up and down the Atlantic coast, in the areas that were not where the eye of the storm came aground, but maybe the first, second or third ring out from a “direct hit.” Their misfortune will not be in the spotlight, but those who suffered loss on the fringes of ground zero will hurt just as much as those who are speaking with reporters and visiting with politicians this week.

Yet another parallel has become obvious – that extreme situations bring out the best in people. I’m an unapologetic optimist – I’m just hard-wired that way. But my basic optimism about human nature is more often than not reinforced by my experiences.

I remember writing a column just after the storm hit Lake Martin, after I had spent a day speaking to tornado victims all across our area. And the thing that I remember most from that day is how many people where out helping others – thousands of people were using chainsaws, muscles, hammers and tarps to give their neighbors a helping hand.

And I distinctly remember how many people who had suffered great loss where still smiling and thankful in the wake of the tragedy, a positive to negative ratio of something like 30-1, maybe more.

Much has been made of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie praising President Barak Obama’s efforts to help victims of this week’s super storm. Christie is a pillar in the Republican party who has actively and famously  campaigned against Obama’s effort to win a second term as a Democratic president. Yet the storm brought them together, and both men have publicly and apparently genuinely lauded each other’s response to the natural disaster.

I’m not surprised at all. In fact, I would be surprised if our president and New Jersey’s governor did not make an exceptional effort to lessen the storm’s impact on Americans. It’s their common job. It’s our human nature. And both Obama and Christie are good, high-quality people who have the ability, the desire and the moral obligation to do what they can.

I’m still voting for Mitt Romney next week, because I believe he has the best chance of leading America out of its bigger storms.

But I’m very pleased that both Obama and Christie seem to be doing such a good job, as are the thousands of relief volunteers who are today traveling to the northeast to offer a hand to their neighbors.

Boone is publisher of The Outlook.