Keith Boyea's Blog

Notes & Commentary on National Security, Current Affairs and Bourbon

Earthquakes, Hurricanes, & Empathy

Thesis: It takes experiencing a natural disaster to fully empathize with others.

Weather wise, this was a strange week for Washington, DC.  On Tuesday, our region was hit with a 5.8 magnitude earthquake.  This weekend, we received a glancing blow from Hurricane Irene.  I had never experienced an earthquake or hurricane before this week.

Both events were scary.  Immediately after the earthquake, my legs were a little wobbly–I realized that during those few seconds of shaking, my life was completely out of my control.  If the building was coming down, I was going to die.  The hurricane was less immediately scary, but walking around the neighborhood this morning, we saw several large trees down–one of which was laying partly on someone’s house.  The point is that this is dangerous stuff.

But here in DC, at least, both the earthquake and hurricane were relatively mild.  In 2005, New Orleans got a direct hit by a force 5 hurricane (Irene was a 1 or a 2).  I cannot imagine what Katrina sounded and looked like, but I do think now I have a better ability to empathize with the people who were stuck there.  Just thinking about Katrina and the response to it makes me very angry, but the silver lining is that people (and FEMA) seemed uber-prepared for Irene.  It is sad that it took a natural and human disaster for us to take this stuff seriously.

The DC earthquake was a 5.8, but the Tohoku earthquake that hit Japan earlier this year was a 9.0.  If I understand the scale correctly, that is something like 32 times more powerful than the DC earthquake.  We got a pretty good shake at 5.8; 9.0 is just inconceivable.  The fear must have been comprehensive.  And not much can be done when an earthquake starts.  It gives you  no warning.

A boss of mine once said that in leadership, sympathy is optional, empathy is mandatory.  This, of course, isn’t a leadership situation, but now that I’ve experienced natural disasters, I’m better equipped to empathize in the future.

I shot some video of the storm and the aftermath.  Below is a short video of a street that had several large trees down.




Written by keithboyea

August 28, 2011 at 11:24 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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