Crises bring out our best

Some cynical Americans looked at the images of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and President Barack Obama getting chummy while planning recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and thought: “shameless political grandstanding.”

Others saw the images through a different window: two important leaders setting aside political differences during a presidential election campaign and working together at a moment of profound adversity.

When disasters strike, Americans have always rushed to help their fellow citizens regardless of political positions. Whether it’s a hurricane or a wildfire, volunteers don’t ask victims if they’re Republican or Democrat or offer their help based on any other defining characteristic.

They just ask, as Malcolm Hanrahan said, “What can I do for you?”

Hanrahan is one of many South Sound volunteers on the Eastern seaboard today helping people cope with the aftermath of an epic storm that claimed more than 100 lives and thrust more than a million survivors into a world without electricity, gas, clean water and basic shelter.

The Mount Rainier Chapter of the Red Cross is sending Hanrahan and a dozen others to help where it is needed. Joint Base Lewis-McChord sent military personnel, including a crew of 13 from the 62nd Medical Brigade to apply their skills in a humanitarian environment.

Others from the South Sound have gone east to help their families. The state Department of Ecology sent nearly 50 workers, and Puget Sound Energy is sending both electrical and gas crews to help restore utilities to thousands of homes.

It has been an impressive response so far, by individuals, by the government and by our political leaders.

There’s no other way to look at it than this: Americans pull together selflessly in times of crisis.