DENNIS O’NEIL: The Need For Superheroes
(Editor’s note: Obviously, this column was written before Hurricane Irene hit the Atlantic Northeast. This was very smart on the author’s part, as nobody knew if he’d have power to write and send it until it could have been too late. Thanks for the foresight, Denny!)
If superheroes existed, they’d be near Cape Hatteras, where Hurricane Irene is expected tomorrow, or maybe here, where big wind is expected Saturday or Sunday. Or they’d be monsters.
I lived through a hurricane in 1963, aboard the USS Lake Champlain – petite as aircraft carriers go, about the size of a small village, but huge among ordinary watercraft. We were in the Caribbean, reasonably safe because something as massive as a carrier probably won’t capsize, but making our way along decks that were constantly swaying. Once, I stuck my head outside a port and looked at the huge waves breaking over the flat bow of the ship and thought, well if I wasn’t a believer before…
Our pilots spent the next few days flying rescue missions to and from Haiti and I got a story or two to tell.
And last May, in Missouri, we were close to a tornado that passed within a mile of our hotel. The next morning we drove through the area, where Marifran grew up, past the spot on the curb where we sat in my father’s station wagon after a movie and pizza, good Catholic kids doing nothing more than lingering. Mari’s childhood home was intact, but the garage in the back yard was flattened. That’s how it was in Ferguson, Missouri that May morning: normal plots of suburbia punctuated with devastation.
And what will happen to Nyack, New York tomorrow or the day after?
Superheroes, I think, come from the same place as deities and good luck charms, They represent something greater than our frail and frightened selves, something bigger and stronger and vastly benevolent that will shield us from the cruelties we thrust upon us by ill fate, cruelties that may be edging toward Nyack from the south and may soon ravage us. They don’t exist, these superheroes, but evolution has gifted and cursed us with imagination, and maybe we can be comforted by pretending that they do.
We’ve done some preparing, and may do more. But I remember those waves crashing onto the carrier deck and I doubt that our paltry efforts will be able to affect the results of the storm.
What I want is a superman to protect me, or at least a father’s hand to hold. But supermen aren’t real and my father has been dead for years.
FRIDAY: Martha Thomases