Are New Yorkers the new Londoners?

The response to hurricane Sandy begs the question: are New Yorkers the new Londoners?

by Robin Mitchinson on 7 November 2012 11:20

The WW2 poster ‘Keep calm, and carry on’ has had an enormous revival in these troubled times, as tee shirts and tea-mugs. The probable reason is that it represents our self-image as people who meet disaster and crisis with a shrug of the shoulders, with ‘business as usual’ being the theme.

And it is true. The day after 7/7 London was almost back to normal with people calmly going about their business. When a small Yorkshire town was almost immobilised by freezing weather a couple of winters ago because the emergency services were unable to get to them because of snow, the people simply turned out and cleared the roads themselves. When the local council closed the fresh-produce market because they said the ice made it too dangerous, the traders simply ignored it, set up stall, and carried on.

We also tend to believe, rather sniffily, that those Yanks are more inclined to over-react and panic in a crisis.

No so, if the response to Sandy was any guide.

Sandy threw in the lot. High winds, flood, fire, tunnels inundated, roads closed, public transport and airlines at a standstill, food and water shortages, no electricity or gas, no petrol, and even mobile phones inoperable because the transmission towers were out. 

The view from here was that there was no panic, no looting, no rioting, no crime, just a ‘stuff happens’ shrug of the shoulders, and a determination to get over it.

One old boy interviewed on TV amidst the wreckage of his home, simply responded with a rueful smile and a ‘We can fix it’. In another interview we were first shown the picture of a beautiful beach-front house, then another of matchwood. The owner seemed far from down-hearted. He has already started to clear the site for rebuilding. 

It was inspiring rather than depressing.

Are New Yorkers the new Londoners?

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