Lessons From Sandy

Getty Images

Lessons From Sandy

Nature’s fury was bad enough. But then came the ravages of human nature.
From the January 2013 Trumpet Print Edition

In the history of storms hitting America, Hurricane Sandy was unique. Meteorologists said it had no known precedent: Three separate storms collided, producing a megastorm that slammed a 1,000-mile stretch of America’s eastern seaboard. It was described as a “perfect storm,” a “Frankenstorm,” the “storm of the century.”

Its timing amplified the damage: The hurricane-force tidal surge coincided with monthly high tides, causing record floods that swamped flood barriers. Water inundated homes and wiped out roads, infrastructure and whole coastal communities. In New York and New Jersey, flooded subway systems were severely damaged. Hospitals became unusable. Schools closed. Airlines cancelled over 13,000 flights. Amtrak stopped all East Coast services. The governor of Connecticut shut down all state highways. Whole states got bombarded with several feet of snow.

In one way or another, 50 million people felt the fury of Sandy. Yet as ugly as the storm was, the human aftermath was even uglier. It was this “fourth stormfront” that added a particularly unnerving atmosphere to this “storm of the century.”

The Whirlwind After the Storm

After “natural” catastrophes, why do Americans turn on themselves? In Japan, after the massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011, there was hardly a mention of looting. We heard more of survival and a nation coming together to rebuild.

America has those stories too. But they pale in comparison to the egregious breakdown in law and order.

The water was barely starting to recede when looting started. With no lights, cameras or alarms, people just couldn’t wait to get out and get stuff.

Already-devastated communities became playgrounds for rampaging mobs, stealing whatever they could lay their hands on. Stores along both sides of a two-mile stretch of Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island were completely emptied. Liquor shops, convenience stores, equipment rentals, electronics emporiums, clothing outlets and grocery markets were pillaged.

But people weren’t just turning on corporate America. Looters went up and down streets breaking into homes—sometimes ones that were still occupied. They stole generators being used to keep people warm. They siphoned gasoline. They stole emergency lights. They stole water-soaked possessions right off front lawns.

They dressed as utility and rescue workers, pretending to help victims—then beating and robbing them.

Citizens attacked actual utility workers who worked to restore electricity. Police had to spend precious manpower protecting electricity workers from people angry that their electricity wasn’t restored faster.

Who Is Responsible for You?

Then there was the blaming and complaining.

Those stranded in areas without electricity, water and gas sounded off in front of reporters. They complained that the Red Cross had abandoned them, that fema took too long to bring help, that the state was too slow to provide food, water and generators for everyone.

One visibly emotional man told reporters that the conditions of the temporary bathrooms the government had set up were disgusting. Another man complained that the temporary housing provided by the government was too crowded. There were no showers, the bunk beds were too small, and the rooms felt like cattle cars, he said. A woman said the wait to get rationed gasoline was terrible. Another complained the government didn’t provide enough charging stations for cell phones.

Don’t look for gratitude among this rabble—you won’t find much.

It seemed like half the complaining was about things the government did supply! There was plenty of real suffering in the wake of Sandy. But how much of it could have been avoided had complainers taken even a modicum of personal responsibility for their lives—and not simply expected the government to take care of them?

People had more than a week to prepare for Hurricane Sandy. And many of the loudest critics were in areas that had mandatory evacuation orders a full day before the storm hit. They chose to live on a beach, and one of the biggest storms in history was headed straight toward them. What did they think would happen?

In July, a study conducted by the Adelphi University Center for Health Innovation found that 55 percent of Americans believe that if a disaster strikes, the government will come to their rescue. Forty-four percent of adults don’t own a first-aid kit. Almost 50 percent have no emergency supplies set aside in case of a catastrophe. More than half of people surveyed said they did not have even a three-day supply of food and water in their homes.

No wonder post-Sandy New York and New Jersey were such a mess. And Sandy was only a Category 1 storm.

New York, especially, should have been prepared. Hurricane Irene struck only two years ago. But back then, the Feds picked up most of the bill too—75 percent of the reconstruction costs. Perhaps people became complacent, assuming that since the government would take care of things, they didn’t need to take any preparatory measures themselves.

At one time, America was well known for its culture of hard work, self-sufficiency, and taking personal responsibility. Disasters such as these show just how far from that ideal the nation has fallen.

And that is going to be a big problem.

Take a look at the number of billion-dollar disasters we’ve been facing. In 2000, there were two. In 2005, there were five. In 2011 there were 14. In 2012, there were 11 as of November, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The trend is definitely heading up—and fast. New Orleans, New York and New Jersey are only the beginning.

But as superstorm Sandy proved, Americans are not prepared.

After looking at Sandy—and remembering Katrina—one wonders how quickly America would revert into something out of the Congo or Rwanda if there weren’t police and National Guard on the streets.

What will happen if one day there are no police? What if our society really does break down like the self-sufficiency survivalist types and rogue economic analysts say it will?

There’s something you need to know: That is exactly what is about to happen. The Trumpet can tell you that dogmatically, not because we can predict weather patterns or economic forces or even societal trends, but because we know that the Bible, which has accurately predicted past events, will accurately predict future ones.

In the Bible, God says that He is the one who blessed our nation (which descended from ancient Israel) with wealth and prominence. But we have obviously turned away from Him. Because of our sins, God is removing the blessings He gave us and is punishing us for hating Him. Your Bible is full of specific prophecies that relate to this. Many of them are specifically about environmental disasters.

Those disasters are about to get worse. A lot worse. And judging by Katrina and Sandy, so will the man-made human nature disasters that come in their wake.

Is There a Solution?

America has a lot of questions that need answers. How do you fix people so devoid of common decency? How do you change people who are out to take all they can? How do you convince people that they—not the government—are responsible for providing for themselves, their families and their community? How do you teach gratitude? How do you fix a society that should be working together to rebuild from a horrible disaster, but instead attacks itself? How do you convince people to live a way of life based on give, not get?

It’s not better meteorology or more organized disaster relief or more government aid that we need. What we need is for each of us to change. It has to start with you and me. We have to want to change.

Do you think that right now Americans are ready to repent?

Sadly, that is the furthest thing from most of our minds. It takes suffering a superstorm for the concept of God to even enter our minds. For us to acknowledge that God exists, that the Bible is His Word, that He gave us our blessings, that we have sinned against Him and that we must repent—that’s going to take, unfortunately, a lotmore suffering.

Yet there’s hope in that. This is exactly what God is doing as He allows disasters like Hurricane Sandy to strike. He is speaking to carnal, godless people in the only language they understand: force. Until people make real, permanent changes in their lives, they are going to have to live through more hurricanes and tornadoes and earthquakes and floods and droughts. They will necessarily have to endure destruction that intensifies beyond their breaking points.

That might sound depressing, but if you understand your Bible—and you know God—you know there is inspiring hope in the midst of that tragedy. It is more tragic for people to live and die rejecting and hating God than it is to suffer these disasters and then turn to Him!

God doesn’t want to see us suffer. He doesn’t want us preying on each other during adversity. He wants us to live happy lives of purpose, prosperity, fulfillment and happy families, happy communities and happy nations. This bright future is what America has to look forward to. It’ll take superstorms like you’ve never seen before. But once He finally breaks our pride, humbles us and brings us to His wonderful way of life, our nation will experience peace, prosperity—beautiful weather—like you wouldn’t believe even if it were told you. That’s in the Bible too.