Facing Down a Disaster

In high school, I read Jack London’s “To Build a Fire.” This engrossing story depicted a man and his dog who take a winter trek through the Yukon. Arrogantly ignoring the advice of an older man, the protagonist confidently believes that he is prepared for the harshness of the cold wintry environment. After falling through ice into freezing waters, he desperately tries to start a fire. However, he fails to notice that he starts a fire under a snowy tree branch, which extinguishes his fire, leaving the man scrambling to restart the fire. His confidence is misplaced and his efforts are futile. He eventually succumbs to hypothermia, and nature claims another victim. It was a classic story of human vs. nature. And nature won.

In September, as Hurricane Florence bore down on the Carolina coast, there was a very real human vs. nature scenario unfolding. More than 1 million people were under mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders. However, not everyone leaves. Why do some people choose to stay during a hurricane whereas others comply to evacuate? Surely, there are numerous reasons why people might stay: a desire to protect their property, a fear of the unknown, or a lack of resources or fewer options may preclude evacuation. Or perhaps some people stay to prove—to others and to themselves—they are not afraid. Afraid of what? Well, death, of course.

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