I’ve been watching the progress of hurricane Matthew as it makes its way toward our southern coastline. It’s terrifying, powerful and amazing…and I find it hard to turn away.
How many newsmen will try to stand in winds of over 100 miles per hour, just to impress upon viewers how strong the wind is? I saw two of them knocked to the ground yesterday; another was slowly driven backward down the street as he shouted to be heard (“Really strong wind!” “Tremendous force!”), as the cameras kept rolling.
Warnings were issued. The usual, of course, about being prepared with water and foodstuffs, the safe way to use a generator, the need to evacuate. There were others: “Do Not Surf,” “This Beach is Closed.” Are we so foolish? Evidently, because the pictures keep coming in. Somebody is out there, braving the elements, to capture it on camera. I worry, of course, about damage, destruction and death. Mostly, I am absolutely in awe of the force of any big storm.
Earthquakes and volcanoes are quite something, too…but blizzards, tornadoes and hurricanes are just weather. Really extreme, stunning, knock me to the ground with the knowledge of how small and powerless we humans really are…weather.
I woke up this morning to thunder and lightning. Not much of a storm, in comparison to what’s going on in the southeastern states. It’s hardly worth mentioning, considering the hurricane. Still, this is where I am. One hundred-fifty years ago, I’d have no idea what was happening in Florida this morning. My own weather is all I’d know.
Which leads my wandering mind off in another direction this morning. I saw a heart-breaking report from Haiti yesterday, in the aftermath of the hurricane. After years of drought, good harvests were expected this year, and have now been destroyed. People struggling to make a living in this poverty wracked country have been knocked down again. People still reeling from the devastation of the 2010 earthquake – many still living in tents and makeshift shelters, with no place to go for protection from this storm – were right in its path.
One hundred-fifty years ago, we wouldn’t have this information for weeks or even months. By the time we learned what had happened in Haiti, it would be old news. Today, we see it happening, as it happens. Right along with all the other afflictions worldwide, weather-related, or not. Have we – with the media bringing us up-to-the-minute reports – become more empathetic? Or more callous? How can we possibly deal with all the knowledge of all the pain in the world?
Maybe the newsmen fling themselves out into the wind, to bring a little levity to a situation that would otherwise be just too much to bear.