Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Perfect Storm

by Gregg Chadwick

President Barack Obama comforts Donna Vanzant today in Brigatine, New Jersey
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The Megastorm Sandy roared into the Atlantic Coast on Monday night.  A thousand mile wide swath of destruction marked its path. The storm raged from the Carolinas to New England,  dumped a massive freak snowfall on West Virginia and flooded much of coastal New Jersey and New York City. Hundreds of thousands lost electricity, buildings were washed away, homes burned to the ground, and many died. But it could have been so much worse. As the night of Sandy wore on, many of us were reminded of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the feeble efforts to save the city of New Orleans. I was on twitter most of the night, communicating via 140 character messages what we knew and how to reach help. People were scared, information was spotty and at times poisoned with fake news from a now disgraced  Republican campaign manager who cruelly spread dangerous rumors of trapped emergency personnel. But arching over the discord and disinformation was the understanding that President Obama, via the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and his own personal courage, had our backs. 

Belle Ville

Gregg Chadwick
Belle Ville
11"x11" oil on linen 2005
Private Collection Los Angeles

As Sandy raged, I thought of my painting, Belle Ville, inspired by images flooding through the media of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It struck me that this strong woman carrying her child away from the storm, could in many ways be seen as Michelle Obama. And I knew that the man who married this heroic woman would carry us as well. Today  President Obama inspected the damage that Sandy brought and determined the continuing course of action with the head of FEMA, Craig Fugate, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. President Obama spoke to the American public across from a damaged marina in Brigatine, New Jersey. Barack's words were purposeful, calming, and filled with effusive praise for those working hard to take care of the people of New Jersey, in particular Governor Christie. Those words will be noted. But what will be deeply remembered is President Obama's comforting embrace of Donna Vanzant - who lost her livelihood, the marina from which the President spoke, in the storm's wrath. 
Pablo Martinez Monsivais captured a stirring photograph of that moment. This is how Hurricane Sandy will be remembered. A simple image of one man helping another in need. The question is answered. We do take care of our own. 

No comments: