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The Boston Globe

Opinion

JAMES CARROLL

In New York’s catastrophe, a vision of the country’s predicament

“Apocalypse NY,” a Daily News headline declared last week. Hurricane Sandy’s devastation was centered on the New York metropolitan area, including the New Jersey suburbs. Across many states, millions suffered from the storm, and the whole nation grasped its historic scale. But New York City itself defined the catastrophe. Photos of a vast deathscape in fire-ravaged Breezy Point, where most of a hundred homes were destroyed, emerged as the storm’s iconic image. “We watched the whole place go up in flames,” a survivor said. “It was hell night. It was the devil’s night.” Later — an eerie silence. “I’m feeling scared . . . ” a dislodged Manhattan third-grader said. “New York’s not supposed to be this quiet.”

The high-tide flooding of low-lying southern sections of Manhattan seemed to vindicate one of the most contested images of Al Gore’s 2006 global warming film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Sea waters gushed through Wall Street, making impotent islands of the globe’s most powerful financial institutions. Once again, the fragility of electronic structures on which the world’s economy depends was laid bare — this time by the furies of natural forces that have been abused by that economy. Hurricane Sandy surely scored the high-water mark of climate-change denial.

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