I’ve followed the devastating effects of hurricane Sandy through various news outlets and Twitter, on pics from Instagram and  the like. The ‘debate’ over the use of Instagram has been very interesting, and is perhaps something to ponder over at length another time.

Perhaps the most insightful account I’ve come across is Michael Winerip’s article The Night the Dune Failed in the NYT. Being there, a part of it, and it being a part of him too. The notion of nature being protective so many times before, but The Dune, their dune, failing in the onslaught of Sandy is a powerful reminder of both our dependency on, and the power of nature.

In beach communities, dunes are held holy, and for the 30 years we’ve lived here, through numerous hurricanes and northeasters, the dune had held back the sea.

“To the dune,” we toasted.

Minutes later, four feet of ocean water came rushing down our street and two of those feet streamed into our first floor.

I’ve just read Jay Parkinson’s blog post of a visit to Rockaway Beach. It’s an insightful and thought-provoking read, and it underlines that the power of nature is often surprising but that at the end of the day it’s human nature that can leave the most lasting impression.

In disaster situations like this, by far the most important aspect of the operation is organization and delineation of duty. This takes leadership. And grassroots, spontaneous operations like the ones we saw today, although they mean well, need clear leadership. It’s less about available resources and people, and more about operationalizing the help to deliver the right services and goods to the right people at the right time. 

As the afternoon went on, help and supplies were streaming in, and Jose was directing everything ………he ran such a tight ship that led to hundreds of people getting food, water, and clothing. If I had a job for Jose in my company, I would have hired him on the spot. I hope someday we can better identify the leaders of every community and give them what they need to optimize their lives. 

Jose will be back at the church in Rockaway tomorrow at 7am and operations will resume until 4pm tomorrow. The church is located at Beach 38th Street and Beach Channel Drive. They need help. If you’re in NYC and can make it out there tomorrow, please go. It’s intense, but worth it.


If I was not 4000 miles away I’d be there. But maybe some of you folks can go?



John MacPherson was born and lives in the Scottish Highlands. He trained as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, before completing an apprenticeship as a carpenter, and then qualified as a Social Worker in Disability Services. Along the way he has cooked on canal barges, trained as an Alpine Ski Leader & worked as an Instructor for Skiers with disabilities, been a canoe instructor, and tutor of night classes in carpentry, stained glass design and manufacture, and archery. He has travelled extensively on various continents, undertaking solo trips by bicycle, or motorcycle. He has had narrow escapes from an ambush by terrorists, been hit by lightning, caught in an erupting volcano, trapped in a mobile home by a tornado, kidnapped by a dog's hairdresser, rammed by a basking shark and was once bitten by a wild otter. He has combined all this with professional photography, which he has practised for over 35 years. He teaches photography and acts as a photography guide & tutor in the UK and abroad. His biggest challenge is keeping his 27 year old Land Rover 110 on the road. He loves telling and hearing stories.

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