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Ask Not “Why Live There?”—Ask “How Can I Help?”

11/3/12

[ cross-posted at Daily Kos ]

Please Give to Red Cross

We just made a donation to the American Red Cross. We’re asking all our readers to please make a donation if you can. Click here or phone 1-800-HELPNOW or text “RedCross” to 90999. Even $5 or $10 can help buy food, water, bandages, batteries, blankets, and other necessities for people hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Thank you.

Click here and here for lists of volunteer opportunities and relief efforts that could use your help. Merci.

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Ask “How did you do?” and “How can I Help?”

Who can forget the question asked repeatedly after Hurricane Katrina, “Why do they live there?” The question was usually spoken with a tone of contempt or exasperation, and without sympathy, perhaps out of impatience after days of seeing “those people”—poor, forlorn—on TV screens where faces of “that complexion” were rarely seen. Maybe it was a Fox News–type of question. If those people just had sense enough to evacuate . . .

Now the same can be asked of those who live—as we do—in the largest, most densely populated metropolitan area in the United States, along the heavily populated upper Atlantic Seaboard. “Why do they live there?” is a fair question, as long as it’s not asked with contempt, without compassion. It could be asked as well of those who live in other at-risk areas such as Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Netherlands, or low-lying coastal areas of India, Bangladesh, and so on. It can also be asked of people in Tornado Alley in the central United States. Just about every spot on earth has its hazards, as we know.

The fact is, for very logical, practical reasons, humans have always tended to live near water. And, though it may seem strange, water often tends to be near coastal areas, which are sometimes prone to high tides, severe storms, and worse. (Inland people, too, can be flooded: Just ask Cairo, Ill., Memphis, Vicksburg . . .) On Wednesday Rachel Maddow showed a map identifying the population centers along the coasts of the United States: some 63 million residents, amounting to one-fifth of the U.S. population. Nineteen million in and around New York City, nearly 13 million in metro Los Angeles, and millions more in and around New Orleans, Miami, Tampa, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, and so on. Is “Why do they live there?”—in the sense of “How could they be so stupid?”—a reasonable question of all these people?

In a letter to the editor of the New York Times printed Nov. 1, Suzette Marie Smith of New Orleans wrote:

We could not have said it better. We hope everyone will take Ms. Smith’s lesson to heart. Have compassion for your fellow Americans. We live in a time of extreme weather in all forms, and, though we hope not, next time it could be you, whether you live on a coast or in the middle.

Click “Read More” for dramatic photos of what Sandy left behind

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A Slideshow of Sandy’s Destruction

Photographs gathered by NBC News

NYT slideshows of Day 1, Day 2, etc.

Slideshow of photos from readers of the New York Times here.

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Captions

Top photo in text: Bonnie Miller, right, cries with her sister-in-law Kelly Borden after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addressed a gathering Friday, in Brick, N.J., after he toured some of the region devastated by Monday’s storm surge. Miller stayed in her home that was severely damaged during the storm. Mel Evans/AP.

Flooded yellow taxis. A parking lot full of yellow cabs is flooded as a result of Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday in Hoboken, NJ. Photo by Charles Sykes/AP.

Debris Road. Debris lined a road in Rockaway, Queens. Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Fireman with boat wreckage. A New York City fire fighter walks amid destroyed boats washed ashore into houses by Hurricane Sandy on Tennyson Drive, on the south side of the Staten Island section of New York City, on Thursday. Mike Segar/Reuters.

Kayaker. Belmar volunteer firefighter Mike McCormick pauses at a stop sign while paddling a canoe down streets heavily flooded by Hurricane Sandy in Belmar, NJ on November 1. Superstorm Sandy has paralyzed much of the US East Coast, causing an estimated billions in damages and killing dozens of people. Michael Reynolds/EPA.

Man sitting on wrecked rootops. James Traina climbs over the remains of his parents’ house, which was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in Staten Island, N.Y., on Friday. Seth Wenig/AP.

Wrecked kitchen, green walls. Steve Santo stands in what used to be the kitchen of his house, destroyed by storm surge flooding in Staten Island, on Friday. Mike Segar/Reuters.

Commuters wait in a line to board buses into Manhattan in front of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Thursday. The line stretched twice around the arena and commuters reported wait times of one to three hours to get on a bus. Limited subway service returned to the city, but commuting was hampered by tunnels still flooded with water and limited train service. Seth Wenig / AP.

Subway Shuttle. A shuttle bus supplemented service from Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. Tina Fineberg for NYT.

Man on phone. People use phones supplied by FEMA on Friday in a parking lot to begin the process of getting disaster relief as the city tries to recover from the after effects of Hurricane Sandy in the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Justin Lane/EPA.

FEMA Help Us. A sign asking for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Friday in the Broad Channel section of Queens. Shannon Stapleton/Reuters.

Volunteers. Volunteers who came together through Facebook offered help to their neighbors in Staten Island. Katie Orlinsky for NYT.

Chris Christie comforts. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tried to comfort Alice Cimillo and other Moonachie, J.J., residents whose homes were damaged by the storm. Photo by Kevin R. Wexler.

Screen shot of partial view of Tumblr-style collection of readers’ photographs of Hurricane Sandy submitted to the New York Times.

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