Destruction lures to see the world around us

Published 10:21 am Thursday, September 14, 2017

The amount of destruction in the wake of both Hurricane Harvey and Irma is almost hard to comprehend. We have been inundated with footage of the flooding in Texas, the debris-strewn islands of the Caribbean, the wind damage all over the entire state of Florida.

It’s not like we’ve never seen what a powerful hurricane can do before. The magnitude of the destruction is overwhelming, but it’s not anything we weren’t expecting. When a hurricane rolls through, rivers naturally breach their banks, boats are of course tossed around like bath toys, and trees are always toppled like a real-life game of dominos. Not to mention how easily houses can crumble.

It’s awful.

And yet, doesn’t it seem as though we are drawn to seeking out the images of destruction? A majority of us, at least, perhaps.

I will shamefully admit that I tend to stay glued to the TV during a hurricane or any similar storm event, barely blinking as I see images of trees bent in half or water rushing into places that it doesn’t belong. Even when it’s a local storm, we always hop in the truck afterwards to see the damage scattered about.

What’s out of place? What’s been twisted or tossed around? What’s been washed away?

It’s awful.

I had never noticed this tendency before until one of my classmates pointed it out in college. We were writing nonfiction essays, and he chose to focus his on the urge to go seek out the damage after bad storms pass through. Reading his words, I found that I could relate to them. While we never enjoy seeing the destruction of property or seeing the pain and anguish of the people affected, we still look for it. We still share the photos and videos.

So I wonder why people seem to be inherently drawn to look at the destruction left behind by Mother Nature. Is it the “fear of missing out,” that nefarious need to know what’s happening all the time, which is so prevalent in society today? Is it just the novelty of seeing stuff—tin roof pieces half-buried in the ground, street signs floating down the river—unnaturally out of place?

Those could be the reasons, part of it anyway. But perhaps a larger part of it is because these images serve as reminders. We can’t be ignorant of the suffering of others if we can see it for ourselves. Maybe we are instinctually lured to seek out devastation in order to drive us to help others.

Assistance and aid have poured into Texas from all over the country, including our local community, since Hurricane Harvey struck a few weeks ago. Local linemen have joined others from several states to travel down to Florida to restore power that millions have lost after Hurricane Irma. There are efforts to help out the twice-battered Caribbean too.

We come together like this whenever these storms happen because the images of devastations are too horrible to ignore.

It’s awful. But maybe it’s also helpful.

Holly Taylor is a staff writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or by phone at 252-332-7206.