I live in New York City, and the destruction in this region wrought by Hurricane Sandy is devastating. So many people’s homes and neighborhoods and entire towns were destroyed, and many more people can’t get basic necessities. It’s overwhelming to think about the amount of work that needs to be done to put things right–and to guard against this kind of disaster in the future.
I’m awed by people’s resiliency in the face of such circumstances. Watching the news last night reminded me of one of my favorite passages in all literature, from Winston Churchill’s history of the Second World War, Their Finest Hour, about the events of 1940.
Churchill recounts a visit he made to a very poor London neighborhood that had just been bombed during the Blitz:
Already little pathetic Union Jacks had been stuck up amid the ruins. When my car was recognised the people came running from all quarters, and a crowd of more than a thousand was soon gathered. All these folk were in a high state of enthusiasm. They crowded round us, cheering and manifesting every sign of lively affection, wanting to touch and stroke my clothes. One would have thought I had brought them some fine substantial benefit which would improve their lot in life. I was completely undermined, and wept. Ismay, who was with me, records that he heard an old woman say: “You see, he really cares. He’s crying.” They were tears not of sorrow but of wonder and admiration.
Tears not of sorrow but of wonder and admiration.
Looking up that passage to copy it reminded me, yet again, how much I loved writing my biography of Churchill, Forty Ways To Look at Winston Churchill. What a time, what a subject.