Hurricane Florence hit the US East Coast nearly seven weeks ago, yet the cleanup is on going and many people’s lives are still not back to normal.
In this DataPoint, Andy talks about the importance to remembering that there are people behind the statistics and data we gather.
What prompted me to think about this was how in the first few years after 9/11, I had shared my photos of the event with a researcher at NIST. In email exchange, I remember explaining to him that I would send him more data after I attended “another memorial service, third one this week.” He wrote back snarkily, “you know a lot of dead people.” To which I replied, “I knew a lot of people in the Towers.” He wrote back quickly, apologizing how his excitement for data collection got the better of him and he never really thought about the people who died and that he’s not just researching a fire, but a mass murder.
That interchange stuck with me and, as I saw parallels between our excitement about “Andy Weather,” I thought it would be a teachable moment.It also helped that he was down in NC to volunteer to help the people whose lives have been upended by the storm.
Frank is spot on. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the numbers and forget that the numbers represent lives.
Hurricanes are massive storms. The damage they cause takes months and years to fix. Some of the damage – like lives lost or permanently altered – is irreversible. That’s easy to overlook in some moments and – often – requires a paradigm shift in thinking for data driven people (like me).
We should strive to help others at every opportunity – especially those recovering from disasters – because we are the only “us” we’ve got.
It’s data. But it’s not just data.