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Neighbors in need

Tampa Bay residents, who were spared the wrath of Hurricane Charley, should be generous in helping those whose lives were devastated by the storm.

Published August 16, 2004

Only the continuation of an 83-year string of extraordinarily good luck spared most of Tampa Bay from the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Charley as it tore a path just to our south and east.

Anyone who doubts the wisdom of the massive evacuation ordered by area emergency planners hasn't paid proper attention to the death and destruction this storm left behind. If Charley had not veered from its predicted course only hours before making landfall, Tampa Bay would have been devastated. The rebuilding of our communities would have taken years. Many lives would have been lost or ruined.

Millions of area residents have reason to be grateful for our good preparation as well as our good luck. Thousands of professionals and volunteers made Herculean efforts to prepare Tampa Bay for what seemed to be an inevitable disaster.

For the most part, the laborious details of evacuation, shelter, law enforcement and other essential hurricane planning went smoothly. Even the few missteps will prove valuable. The lessons learned from this monumental effort will pay dividends when our community is forced to respond to the next crisis.

Most residents showed a proper sense of perspective in responding to Hurricane Charley's approach. They concentrated on protecting themselves and their loved ones and paid less attention to the fate of their material possessions. They looked after their neighbors and treated strangers as instant friends. And once they had done everything they could to prepare for the storm, they had time to reflect on the fragility of our daily routines and the folly of our pretensions of control over our destinies.

A storm packing such terrifying power can make us feel powerless in its wake. Yet all of us who were spared the ravages of Hurricane Charley have the power to provide meaningful help to the thousands who were caught in its path.

In the days and weeks to come, the lucky residents of Tampa Bay will have have many opportunities to come to the aid of their fellow Floridians who are desperate for food, shelter and solace. Such generosity of spirit is its own reward; in this case, it also will be a down payment in anticipation of the inevitable day when a devastated Tampa Bay will be desperate for similar help.

[Last modified August 16, 2004, 01:20:21]


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