Nytimes.comÂ features dozens of fabulousÂ pictures today. I especially like the oneÂ by Michael Kirby showing several police officersÂ rescuingÂ three-year-old Haley RombiÂ from dangerous flood waters. When natural disaster strikes, we need people to have our backs. As individuals, each of us is utterlyÂ vulnerable to many forces larger than ourselves. Acting together, we can protect each other against many of life’s scariest risks. Hurricane Sandy has battered the northeast. Watching the pictures,Â weÂ glimpse the magnitude of destruction. Only we really can’t grasp it. One cubic meter of water weighs one metric ton, as much asÂ my car. The energy contained within a storm surgeÂ raging towards us is literally unfathomable, out of human scale.
So it’s pretty damn inspiring to watchÂ doctors, nurses, EMTs, police officers,Â fire fighters, utility workers, air traffic controllers, meteorologists, construction workers. members of the armed forces, electricians, plumbers, engineers, public health officials, politicians, and ordinary people helping each otherÂ when such a storm strikes.
I feel the same way about some other things. I remember when Vincent moved into our home. Bewildering formsÂ began arriving at our house, many from hospitals sportingÂ impressive dollar figures, alongsideÂ the notation: “this is not a bill.”Â The totalsÂ quickly accumulated:Â tens of thousands, thenÂ hundreds of thousands of dollars.Â As I’ve said many times before, our familyÂ would have been whiped out if it weren’t for Medicare and Medicaid. These programs had our back when weÂ needed them. most.
Writing in this morning’s Times, David BrooksÂ worried that a second Obama term wouldÂ “be about reasonably small things.”Â The words “implementing Obamacare” were included within a list supposedly illustrating this point.Â That’s notÂ a small thing. Quite the opposite. Until theÂ Affordable Care Act is securely implemented,Â tens of millions of people will lack the protections our family received. So many peopleÂ are one car accident, oneÂ serious illnessÂ away from medical bankruptcy. We finally have the opportunity to remedy this scandalous situation.
As Americans, we need to protect each other against these risks, too. One person loses her house to a tidal wave of rushing water. AnotherÂ loses her houses to a tidal wave of daunting medical bills. Both people need help.Â AsÂ our glorious first responders struggle to address the carnage of Sandy, today is a good day to remember this simple point.