November 28, 2014

Scrolling Headlines:

Stanley Andre reflects on his career as Senior Day approaches -

Thursday, November 27, 2014

UMass tight end Jean Sifrin mulls future, potential NFL career -

Thursday, November 27, 2014

UMass basketball trounces Northeastern 79-54 -

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Students and staff discuss racial and social inequality following Ferguson decision -

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

UMass hockey falls to Vermont, 3-1 -

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

No indictment for Ferguson cop -

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chancellor addresses campus regarding grand jury decision in death of Michael Brown -

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Northern Illinois hangs on against Ohio, Hunt carries Toledo to victory -

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

SGA passes 10 motions at meeting Monday night -

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Students and UMPD work together during the annual ‘Walk for Light’ -

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

‘Conscious Consumer’ talk promotes business sustainability -

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

UMass hockey looks to rebound against Vermont following Saturday’s blowout at home -

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

UMass women’s soccer’s Sverrisdóttir balances a soccer career between two different countries -

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

‘First Demo’ provides a fascinating glimpse of Fugazi in its infancy -

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My mental illness does define me (to an extent) -

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How to master multitasking -

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

One Direction hints at newfound sophistication on ‘Four’ -

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

TV on the Radio sounds rejuvenated on ‘Seeds’ -

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

UMass men’s club soccer fundraises its way to Memphis -

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

UMass hockey takes accountability and seeks redemption against Vermont on Tuesday -

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Running in the wrong direction

Flickr/Boss Tweed

Symbolism plays an important role in the aftermath of tragedy or disaster. Iconic photographs of everything from troops returning home from war, to firefighters raising the flag at Ground Zero after Sept. 11 sear themselves permanently onto the public’s consciousness. On a smaller scale, candlelit vigils are held for the dead and protests express public outrage. And for every somber moment of silence there is an equally important symbolic act of moving forward with new hope.

It’s tricky territory to navigate. To put it in cold terms, when is the appropriate cut-off point for grief, and when is it possible to move on? Let’s look at an example of a situation in which someone tried to rush the moving on process.

With a 1,000-mile diameter, Hurricane Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, according to the National Hurricane Center. With economic damage estimated at $50 billion, Sandy is predicted to be the second-most expensive storm in U.S. history, behind Katrina. Last week, it wreaked havoc in the Caribbean and up the east coast of the United States, hitting the Mid-Atlantic area the hardest. Currently, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that 113 people have died in the United States as a result of the storm.

For our purposes, we’ll focus on the impact of the storm in New York City. Not only are super destructive hurricanes relatively uncommon on the East Coast, the pictures of a flooded NYC are eerily reminiscent of stills from disaster flicks. We’re not used to seeing our cities like this. Images of a blacked-out Manhattan, flooding at the Ground Zero construction site, fires in Queens, and water flowing into abandoned subway stations are undoubtedly disturbing.

Visceral reactions aside, on the practical side of things, efforts to restore power and repair the extensive damage, not only to property, but to the city’s infrastructure, which will be expensive and time-consuming. The frightening devastation Sandy caused is leading to calls, including from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, to better storm-proof the city as extreme weather becomes more frequent. Cuomo said that the city should consider a barrier system to keep flood waters from entering underground infrastructure, according to The New York Times article, “For Years, Warnings It Could Happen Here.” Undertaking a project of this magnitude would be incredibly expensive.

But that’s in the long term. The real question at the end of last week was, apparently, whether or not to go on with the New York City Marathon.

Late last week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that the marathon was still on for Sunday, Nov. 4. The race was scheduled to start in Staten Island, the borough that was hit the hardest by the hurricane, where 20 of the city’s 41 deaths have occurred.

Bloomberg’s method in making this decision was the oft-used, “it’s what they would have wanted” explanation, referring to the wishes of those who died as a result of the hurricane. He also said that it would boost morale and bring much-needed money into the city. Bloomberg also appealed to New York’s “grit” when he said, “This city is a city where we have to go on.”

Apparently, however, now isn’t the time for symbolic rhetoric: residents and critics were angry and petitions to cancel the race began popping up on Change.org, Twitter, and Facebook. Caving to popular pressure, Bloomberg cancelled the marathon late on Friday, for the first time in its history. While some of the runners who had flown in to the city for the race weren’t very happy, New Yorkers felt Bloomberg made the right call.

When trying to defend his early choice to keep the race as scheduled, Bloomberg recalled then-mayor Rudy Giuliani’s decision to proceed with the 2001 Marathon two months after Sept. 11. According to an article from CBS and the Associated Press, Bloomberg said, “I think Rudy had it right. You have to keep going and doing things and you can grieve you can cry and you can laugh all at the same time. That’s what human beings are good at.”

In this situation however, Bloomberg may have been drawing a false comparison, as these two events represent totally different situations. Americans were shocked, frightened, saddened and angry following the attacks. They were all grieving, suffering psychologically, but they had access to basic necessities. A “morale-boosting” event two months after the fact wasn’t in bad taste — in fact, it was probably sorely needed.

So while Bloomberg’s heart may have been in the right place when he appealed to the symbolic nature of the marathon, it was way too soon to have that symbolic moving-on moment. The admittedly frivolous nature of the media coverage of the marathon would have been a kind of slap in the face to those still putting the pieces together in the aftermath of the storm. The celebratory spirit of the marathon would have also felt forced given the divisiveness it generated leading up to its cancellation.

In an article for the Huffington Post, Tim Dahlberg said that “the mayor wanted to run when the city was still struggling to walk.” And that can perhaps lead to the best answer to the question, “When is it best to move on?” It’s a step-by-step process. You can’t move on until the bulk of the suffering is over, or at least until the physical scars have healed. And you can’t push to move on, symbolically or literally, until people are ready to.

Hannah Sparks is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at hsparks@student.umass.edu.

 

 

Comments
2 Responses to “Running in the wrong direction”
  1. Kris says:

    Bloomberg is spineless, doing nothing while pretending to take a hardline stance, and always trying to choose the winning side.

  2. Dr. Ed Cutting says:

    Whenever there is a disaster of this magnitude,the electrical utilities routinely bring in crews from out of state and sometimes even out of the country (i.e. Canada) to help — and states waive requirements for local electricians licenses and the rest because when you are trying to get the wires back up onto the poles (often having to put new poles in first), they really don’t do it all that differently in Alabama or Alberta.

    Well it seems that New Jersey decided to be special. Guys had driven 900 miles to come help and were sent home because they were non-union. People shivering in the dark right now are without electricity because the people who could have fixed the lines were sent home.

    When you think about this, Bloomberg’s stupidity really doesn’t seem like that much…

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