Why Hurricane Sandy Made Me Think of Winston Churchill.

I live in New York City, and the destruction in this region wrought by Hurricane Sandy is devastating. So many people’s homes and  neighborhoods and entire towns were destroyed, and many more people can’t get basic necessities. It’s overwhelming to think about the amount of work that needs to be done to put things right–and to guard against this kind of disaster in the future.

I’m awed by people’s resiliency in the face of such circumstances. Watching the news last night reminded me of one of my favorite passages in all literature, from Winston Churchill’s history of the Second World War, Their Finest Hour, about the events of 1940.

Churchill recounts a visit he made to a very poor London neighborhood that had just been bombed during the Blitz:

Already little pathetic Union Jacks had been stuck up amid the ruins.  When my car was recognised the people came running from all quarters, and a crowd of more than a thousand was soon gathered.  All these folk were in a high state of enthusiasm.  They crowded round us, cheering and manifesting every sign of lively affection, wanting to touch and stroke my clothes.  One would have thought I had brought them some fine substantial benefit which would improve their lot in life.  I was completely undermined, and wept.  Ismay, who was with me, records that he heard an old woman say:  “You see, he really cares.  He’s crying.”  They were tears not of sorrow but of wonder and admiration.

Tears not of sorrow but of wonder and admiration.

  • Human resiliency is amazing at times. We rise to the occasion. How nice it would be if we could maintain this attitude of strength and gratitude daily.
    Dan @ ZenPresence

  • peninith1

    Total admiration for those who are grateful for life itself . . . and yet, because I live in a frequently hit storm area and have worked in disasters myself, I am so aware that there is a ‘long haul’ about all of this. I’ve seen first hand, how much, after the cameras are no longer recording, people will be experiencing the hardships. They will mostly be resilient, and the moments of courage they have felt and shown in the crunch will be shining stars to hold onto.

    But the longer-term stress can also grind the vulnerable to powder. People need not to be forgotten a month, three months, six months or more than a year from now. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, some people who were elderly and lost everything or were displaced, also left this life sooner than perhaps they might have. The disaster was too destructive for them.

    It’s on all of us who are in the (presently) fortunate zone to do everything we can to lend support and comfort. Winston Churchill could lift morale by just showing up and showing emotion. That’s what leaders do, and their presence is greatly appreciated–as I think many people in New Jersey saw last week.

    Those of us who are more anonymous have the practical job: to reach beyond the symbolic to the real. First, for the sake of all our futures, support public agencies and first and follow-on responders who are bringing help–don’t begrudge what your taxes are doing in the Northeast, and will do for YOU when your day comes. Second, if you are able, contribute financially to agencies like the Red Cross who effectively bring help. Third, if you have an organization-based or religious or individual way to give or help, do that. It will also help YOU to feel comforted. Call friends who live there and find out what they need, maybe. I’m making a quilt, because it’s ‘what I do best.’ Maybe it will give a displaced family an item that seems like home comfort. First, last and always, send all that is good –whether in the form of prayer or just thoughts– to everyone who is affected.

  • Of course my sympathy and love to every Hurricane Sandy victim.

    Fine words are usually written by PR writers like Ted Sorensen.

    Churchill deliberately starved about 4 mill Indians to death by stealing their grain for UK’s war fronts and for hoarding. Europe’s farms were devastated and Churchill used the hoarded grain for profiteering. When you see his ‘Stately Home’, remember where the money came from: slavery, starvation and theft.

    4 million Hindu and Muslim soldiers died in WW2 to stop one lot of Europeans from slaughtering another lot. Much agricultural land was captured by the British gov as Indians could not pay their high, usually arbitrary taxes and the landless sought jobs in the army. Indians were forced at gunpoint to grow cash crops for export.

    Ref: Churchill’s Secret Wars. The most heartrending part, people who survived the famine … the holocaust of 1943, are hard to read. In the midst of famine, people had to find ways to survive. Some women survived as domestic helpers or by providing child care. Others had to resort to prostitution. Unable to feed their children, some parents sold them or simply killed them. Dead bodies piled along the roads as people tried to reach the cities. But in the midst of this famine, UK jailed local nationalist leaders.

    Thus British rule started with a deliberately created famine (1770) with an estimated 10 million deaths and ended with another one. Do read Late Victorian Holocausts. The most prosperous country was so looted and enslaved, it became the world’s emblem for starvation and poverty.

    Dowry deaths are a direct result of UK stopping traditional Indian women’s rights/ inheritance with UK laws where women were chattel/ slaves and could not inherit even a family home as in the J Austen stories. The Queen of course still sports stolen property, like diamonds, on herself. Americans know Columbus was seeking India, the richest country, when he landed in America. Colonizing by Churchill and his ilk made it the poorest.