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Every year, from June through late November, the North American Hurricane Season takes hold of the United States and Caribbean. This year was no different. Hurricanes were expected to hit the United States and Caribbean. The catastrophic consequences weren’t.
First it was Harvey, then it was Irma and finally Maria.
The names in the latter are not your average family of three, but rather some of the most destructive hurricanes to ever hit the Caribbean and United States. The toll these hurricanes have taken on those effected has put them into emotional, financial and physical turmoil.
However, despite the thousands of buildings and homes demolished, we as a nation have exhibited the strong patriotism for which we are known. The biggest melting pot on earth has once again shown that red, white and blue are more important than any race, religion or ethnicity.
When humans face adversity, nothing matters more than perseverance. Watching a fellow countryman or women struggle against adversity is hard to bare. So, when we are given the opportunity to help, our natural inclination is to do just that.
Harvey was an absolute menace. Classified as a Category 4 hurricane, its winds reached somewhere between 130-156 mph. The water was so high in the middle of the streets that if you wanted to get to your car, you would have to throw swim trunks on. Its estimated that economic damages totaled about 180 billion dollars, more than any other natural disaster in U.S. history.
Despite the massive flooding and torn houses, people didn’t just sit around and mope. If those affected were not out and about helping pick up the mess, they were having some fun in the massive amounts of water. Many Instagram and Twitter accounts such as Barstool Sports and Red Bull showed people water skiing while being pulled by a pickup truck.
It was nothing short of archetypal, strong American spirit — a spirit that won’t be knocked down even in the most brutal circumstances.
Donations began to pour in, adding to the aid sent immediately after Hurricane Harvey struck. This was headed by three time NFL defensive player of the year J.J. Watt. Watt plays for the Houston Texans, the football team of the city most severely impacted by the storm. Watt demonstrated how humans are compassionate individuals, motivated by things other than self interest. Watt used his sport-celebrity pedestal to do good for the Houston community and raised over 37 million dollars in relief funds.
Following Harvey, Irma struck. The name doesn’t really fit the personality on this one. When you hear the name Irma, you probably associate it with your, or someone else’s, grandmother, not with a hurricane that smashed Florida and the Caribbean.
In the eye of the storm, Irma hit record wind speeds of 185 mph. It was a Category 5 hurricane, but the devastation was so bad that people thought the National Weather Service was going to make a “Category 6” just for the storm. That was a myth.
Houses were clobbered, beaches were destroyed and schools were closed. People evacuated hastily. Those with family and friends in Irma’s path began to worry as soon as the media released the specifics of the hurricane. This includes myself, who has a little brother attending the University of Miami and aunts, uncles and cousins living in South Florida. They were safe and sound, but I, along with thousands of others, was worried.
Irma’s impact was similar to Harvey. Big cities, like Miami, were left with only 40 percent of power and the Florida Keys had most of their sewer system damaged, along with houses getting completely trounced and boats being flipped upside down.
Irma did not just wreak havoc in the United States. It was worse in the Caribbean. Places such as Barbuda are “barely habitable,” according to its prime minister. Turks and Caicos was also smacked by Irma with little remorse, as evidenced by the reports done by local plumbing and roofing services and firefighters saying that there were hundreds of torn roofs and major flooding in the street. Repairs will start as soon as the flooding has gone down; many homes will need to be completely rebuilt, but there are others who got lucky and only suffered a small amount of damage such as faucet leak repair in Mill Creek, WA that can be fixed by roofing services and plumbers. Damaged homes may need a flat roof replacement, a new aluminum gutter installation, and other restoration services to be deemed habitable again.
They say, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Here, that cliche won’t fly and cannot be justified. It was real. Life was made tough for those effected by this unforgiving storm — but what is also real is the nature of the human spirit. Resilience is in our blood, pratically ingrained in our genetic makeup. Humans will come out of the woods to make a difference. Corporate companies such as Apple, Allstate and IBM pledged a combined 15 million dollars to Harvey and Irma victims. Pro-athletes like Watt and Tim Tebow have gotten involved in relief efforts. Along with these big names, there have been people going out of their way to help friends and family in need. People who have opened their doors to those who need a bed, food, electricity and running water.
Since the turn of the century, our society has been consumed by the idea of the individual and self success. Blame is sometimes put on the advancement of technology and the idea that achievement is restricted to what the self has done, and not what the group has done. In our capitalist society, where the thickness of your wallet says a lot about your achievement, we tend to forget that it can be measured in other ways, too, like what you have done for the men and women to your left and to your right.
This hurricane season has exemplified another way to describe success. Groups of people have gone out of their way to help others in need.
Hurricane season has yet to cease. Following Harvey and Irma, Hurricane Maria hit. Maria was described as apocalyptic in terms of its structural damage to Puerto Rico. Ten people were confirmed dead, over 95 percent of cell phone sites were dismantled and running water stopped. Being able to contact loved ones was out of the question, which forced more federal aid to come pouring in. After Maria passed, volunteers came rushing to the scene to try to salvage clean water and food for those left with practically nothing.
Once again, people stood united to help other people. We are just like our structural makeup. When a bone breaks, it grows back, but stronger. When our buildings break and our hearts are broken, they mend but are never same because they grow stronger with the experience. We as people bounce back, we are resilient because we don’t let things break us entirely.
Together as humans, we are inclined to succeed against adversity. As a group, and as one whole, we thrive.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Mitchell Milbauer at firstname.lastname@example.org