Sandy's floodwaters are receding and services and transport are slowly returning. Despite this, the death toll continues to climb and new threats, like contaminated water, emerge. As the East Coast begins this next phase, we look at the aftermath of other recent disasters.
In the wake of catastrophes, communities come together to help one another in unexpected ways. In Conde Nast Traveler magazine, Guy Martin told the story of a New Orleans Sheraton manager Dan King who turned his hotel into a makeshift shelter during Hurricane Katrina. Martin wrote that, "the civic collapse had been so complete that King was forced to step back in time and exercise the original definition of hospitality as codified by the Greeks, who extended to deserving allies armed protection from a hostile world. " Even after the storm had passed, "The hospitality industry will be the decisive element in New Orleans's recovery—just as it was in the city's pre-hurricane prosperity."
"These days, we can quickly mobilize vast numbers of people to crisis areas, but once on the ground, those same people can actually make the disaster worse," William Wheeler explained in a Boston Magazine story. He discussed a Harvard entrepreneur hoping to prevent situations like that which occurred in Haiti, where a huge influx of workers and money arguably hampered the earthquake recovery. Such efforts lacked clear jurisdictions, were disorganized and inexpert. "So in the end, lack of sanitation caused the deaths of 6,500 people and sickened half a million more."
Some risk their own lives during a recovery for far different reasons. In Vanity Fair, Pico Iyer wrote about the 18,000 workers who helped to stabilize the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. "The worries about the spread of radiation have hardly abated, but the workers remain all but nameless and faceless; they rarely speak to the press—for fear of being fired—and all that most of us see of them are pictures of virtually extraterrestrial figures in HAZMAT suits and masks clomping around a wasteland eerily emptied of 100,000 people." Iyer explored what motivated them to complete such a dangerous—albeit necessary—task. "'They are ready to die,' said Prime Minister Naoto Kan one week after the catastrophe."