by Susan Gerhart
“Even with all our technology and the inventions that make modern life so much easier than it once was, it takes just one big natural disaster to wipe all that away and remind us that here on Earth, we’re still at the mercy of nature” ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson
Our community neighbors have suffered unimaginable losses. As I write this, the final toll is unknown. Many of us have chosen to live where we do because of the relative isolation and closeness to nature. We accept the risks that go with this, though we worry primarily about fire and heavy snowfall. But the risk of flood has always been there.
Our library is undamaged and is a place where you can get information, word-of-mouth and Internet, find solace and escape in books, and companionship via e-books for that extra-long commute.
Here are some books about how people, fictional and non, have coped with disasters.
Paul Graves and his family are the only ones in Marah, Il, who are unscathed by a tornado that destroys the town in “Falling to Earth” by Kate Southwood. The term “survivor’s guilt” was unknown at the time, but even as they try to help their fellow citizens, the Graveses are plagued by “why me?” questions. Worse, their neighbors are asking “why them?” and are soon shunning these former pillars of the community. Southwood examines the psychic cost of surviving when others do not. The book is based on the 1925 Tri-State tornado, the worst in U.S. history.
Deepwater Horizon was the deepest oil well in history, drilled from an offshore rig located about 250 miles southeast of Houston in the Gulf of Mexico. In April, 2010, an explosion on the rig killed eleven men, injured many more, and released billions of gallons of oil that polluted miles of coastline. Carl Safina examines the consequences to businesses, wildlife (who can forget the pictures of oil-soaked birds?), and area residents in “A Sea of Flames.” Ultimately, those who make their livings from coastal activities were more concerned about economic losses that environmental issues.
Laurence Gonzales’ “Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why” is the best book about survival you will ever read and is a must for those engage in risky activities such as hiking in the great outdoors. Through real-life examples, Gonzales explains why accidents happen and emphasizes that survival lies not in equipment but in “the nature of one’s heart.” His follow-up book, “Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Survival” examines what happens to people in the aftermath of traumatic life-changing events. You don’t really return to your previous way of living. Some people don’t just cope with these changes, but are better for them.
Abdulrahman Zeitoun was a successful New Orleans businessman of Syrian descent. He was married and had four children. When Hurricane Katrina hit, his family evacuated, but Zeitoun chose to stay. In a borrowed canoe, he rescued people and pets and brought supplies to the stranded. Then he was arrested for looting while on his own property. He was incarcerated in a wire cage, accused of being an Al-Qaeda terrorist, had his civil right taken away, and denied access to his family and lawyers. Dave Eggers tells Zeitoun’s story and the stories of others who were the victims not just of the hurricane but of government and martial law gone bad. It is also the story of a man who, amazingly, refuses to be bitter.
Phyllis J. Perry is a local (Boulder) author. Her book “It Happened in Rocky Mountain National Park” is a compilation of disasters that have befallen people visiting the park. These stories illustrate how quickly pleasure outings can turn deadly because of weather, wildlife, and the ignorance of those involved. Pick up this book to learn why noon may be the worst time to go hiking.
Our community has been struck by disaster, but still we are blessed to live where we do, with the neighbors we have. A visit to our library will confirm this.
See you around the stacks.