Phillip Gerard recounts his experience as a victim of a ravaging hurricane in “What They Don’t Tell You About Hurricanes”. Written in a style that combines objective story-telling with that of subtle emotional expression, his piece actively conveys a progression of full disclosure that transitions from a detached account of the events leading up to and during the storm to the emotional pain he experienced at the storm’s aftermath. Throughout the text, he focuses on more factual events almost devoid of emotional attachments — “The great tree cracking and tumbling to the ground in the roaring darkness really do sound like an artillery barrage – crack! crack! whump! whump! It takes italics, exclamation points and boldface cliches to tell about it” (226) — before the culmination of a single, powerful statement at the end of the piece: “What they don’t tell you about hurricanes is how many ways they can break your heart” (229). I found such arrangement of the piece effective in not only allowing the reader a peak into his experiences, but also providing a sense of how it feels to be in the midst of mother nature’s wrath.
As a New Yorker living in downtown Brooklyn, I was lucky enough to have been within the areas less severely hit by Hurricane Sandy last year. Save for losing phone service for a couple of hours, I was able to survive the storm with my parents safe and sound. I know others weren’t so lucky; I remembered reading statuses on Facebook and headlines on Yahoo! News and the New York Times of people losing power and having to evacuate their homes because they were within the red zones. I saw pictures of the area around my school in Lower Manhattan flooded with rising water from the Hudson River, of downtown Manhattan covered in darkness following the storm compared to the brightly lit homes and buildings located uptown, of destruction and disorder within severely hit areas once the storm subsided, and of the generosity within communities to help one another. Yet, despite the vast collections of news articles detailing the storm and its aftermath, it was difficult to grasp the true difficulties and emotional stress that natural disasters can bring along and leave without.
I think “What They Don’t Tell You About Hurricanes” offers an extremely effective and personal account of what it feels like — the fear, the horrors, the kindness within communities, heartbreak, emotional stress, etc. — to be in the midst and aftermath of a violent storm. Albeit initially lacking in the emotional department, it sort of allows the reader to not be told of what it feels like to be a witness, but rather to feel it themselves and thus, there’s is a larger personal connection between the writer and his audience.