When Irene passed by New York City last summer with far less than the anticipated impact (though she would continue on in a path that would wreak havoc upstate and beyond, to the tune of more than $15 billion), New Yorkers breathed a sigh of relief. Moments later, we were already complaining that Irene had been overhyped, that it was a letdown, that this was just a way for the bodegas and groceries to cash in, or for Mayor Bloomberg to save face following the snowpocalypse, and anyway, who cares, we all have "hurricane fatigue." (Oh, poor us.) People got angry about that, calling New Yorkers self-absorbed and entitled and geographically limited. There are other places beyond New York City, after all, other places that did not fare so well and needed help. That was, and often is, true.
Now, a little bit over a year later, that hurricane churned stew of feelings is upon us again, and this time the storm seems far more serious—just look at the comparative not-even-close satellite images of Irene vs. Sandy; turn on the Weather Channel; look at photos of flooding in Red Hook and downtown Manhattan; listen to the wind blowing outside your window, hours before the storm has even arrived. Listen to the politicians talking seriously: Don't panic, but DO NOT TAKE THIS LIGHTLY. The superstitious might wonder if perhaps Sandy were some form of cosmic payback for all the snarking and making fun and lack of respect we showed with Irene, despite that prior storm's damage to many beyond Manhattan. Out of sight, out of mind, is the way we often supercilious humans tend to think. Once the threat of that terrifying thing-that-might-happen was over, we forgot about it and moved on, not a care in the world minus, for some, a vague sense of disappointment that the promised excitement wasn't delivered, even as others were worrying as Irene began to impact them.