Stuff happens. I am thinking about this as the Northeastern US is getting pummeled by a major snow storm. I am safely ensconced here in the SF Bay Area, and I have been party to a number of things over the years. Some experiences:
1965 New York Blackout: I was playing a board game with my siblings, and off went the lights. My father’s train had just left Grand Central Terminal for his commute home to Westchester County. He ended up sleeping on the train and got home the following evening in a very rumpled suit.
1977 New York Blackout: I was working in metro NYC on a summer job, between semesters in grad school. I don’t recall what caused the power to go out, and I do remember how the looting and rioting in NYC was audacious. This was not a good era for New York City, it has become a great place again since those days.
1978 New England Snow Storm: I was in graduate school in Boston. The snow poured for nearly two days. The governor and mayor basically shut the area down for the entire week. Some of us snuck out of town on the Mass Pike west, and skied in Vermont for the week. I remember deserted streets other than armed national guard troops in vehicles making their way around. Truly creepy. I think about that aspect of the experience as the news unfolds daily in various part of the world where conflict and marshal law are the norm.
1989 SF Earthquake: I had tickets to the game at Candlestick Park for the Baseball World Series between the Giants and the A’s. They were courtesy of my employer, and I passed them on to one of my subordinates, since I had used some tickets for the playoffs, when SF beat the Cubs. (Great game!) I was on Highway 101 when the tremor hit, I thought all my tires had blown out.
2008 Hurricane Ike in Houston: I had a business trip to Texas for my company, planned and booked well before the hurricane came. It was not a Katrina, and it did do a great deal of damage, especially to the coastal city of Galveston. As I made my way by automobile from San Antonio to Austin to Dallas and then the Ike ravaged Houston I kept getting highway sign warnings to stay away from Houston, there was no gas (any irony there?) etc. I managed to get there, had a meal at a very nice place that was full of jolly people—I thought about the Titanic.
I did not experience the current snow storm back east, or Sandy, or Katrina, or the earthquake in Haiti, the tsunami in Japan and the like in Indonesia, the Bopal poisoning, the Anchorage earthquake when I was a kid, the earthquake a few years back in western China.
Stuff happens. The question for me is how well and how quickly we are capable to recover. The results are at best mixed.