And strangely, the whole thing seemed ridiculous because floods just don't happen in upmarket American locations.
Two days later, Hurricane Sandy downsized to become 'Superstorm Sandy', and smashed America's East Coast. Sandy - the size of Europe - stretched herself across a vast expanse of the Canadian and US coastline, committing fatalities and unparalleled inconveniences. She struck a blow in local economies, stopped a closely run presidential election in its tracks, and shut down the stock exchange for two days. Sandy's rage killed at least 70 people and estimated damage of $50b.
What's more, she touched millions of lives in a million ways. As soon as I heard about the storm, I emailed friends in the States to ensure they were safe. I have a friend whose trip to the US was cancelled, and a sister-in-law and her husband living on Long Island who were stranded in London for two days. And some people can't answer my emails.
It will take America years to get over this attack of nature and although there are already suggestions that Sandy may have done builders a big favour, some people will never recover from the impact.
But Sandy has also assaulted our senses and sense of equilibrium. She did not start her work in the USA. The Caribbean first experienced her as a Hurricane. Haitians who have endured serial catastrophes for decades were revisited with horrors by Sandy's violence.
And yet somehow, I have been programmed to expect deluges in Haiti or Bangladesh. Lives and livelihoods lost to floods in these places have acquired a morbid normality in our common consciousness.
Conversely, there is an unspoken psychological contract that the wealthy have with nature, which says, 'These things don't happen here - to us!' Natural disasters are uncommon to most developed societies and their occurrence really does come as a legitimate shock. Britain still comes to a stop in a snowstorm! Great industrial communities with ostentatious buildings and economic centres avoid tectonic plates and flood alerts. It all makes sense. But with this comes a feeling of immunity.
Sandy's catastrophic arrival in Manhattan was a stark reminder that we share the same fragile place in space but also that lives and livelihoods lost in America are as devastating as anywhere else in our world.
- 07/12/2012 10:11 - Holiness on the take?
- 30/11/2012 10:47 - Access to Hope
- 21/11/2012 10:01 - Women: only priests to the poor?
- 16/11/2012 13:14 - Whose kids are hungry?
- 08/11/2012 10:03 - The Jesus Agenda and the American Manifesto