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Remember what’s important in the storms

By Chris A. Quilpa

Life is full of events and encounters, surprises and scenarios, changes and challenges, phases and processes.

Hard things happen, and they can be unexpected and overwhelming, disastrous and devastating.

These events can divide us and make us indifferent to or intolerant of others, or they can unite us in love and respect.

August was an eventful month, historic and unforgettable. Did we expect those happenings to occur? Probably not, with the exception of that great American eclipse on August 21 bringing us awe and excitement, and possibly an interest in science or astronomy in particular.

A rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12 turned violent and deadly. A car plowed into a group of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring about 19 others, and a police helicopter crash took the lives of two state troopers who were monitoring the event.

Who would have thought that a quaint, charming city like Charlottesville would become the news of the day worldwide? It seemed unthinkable: Peaceful and progressive Charlottesville was in the spotlight for a white-supremacist protest that was ostensibly a response to a proposal to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a park.

For six years, my wife and I visited Charlottesville while our two children were at The University of Virginia from 2006 to 2012.

Charlottesville has become a special place for us because of those worthwhile weekend getaways, educational and informative experiences we’ve had, people we’ve come to know, wine-tasting events at different vineyards and wineries, and the tourist areas like Monticello that we’ve visited and revisited.

I never imagined such a violent attack would happen in Charlottesville, where The University of Virginia, founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, the third U.S. president and principal author of the Declaration of Independence.

Then on Aug. 28, Hurricane Harvey flooded portions of Texas and Louisiana, reminding us of Hurricane Katrina 12 years ago.

Harvey’s flood was overwhelming. Many lives were lost, including a police officer who was on his way to work and drowned in the deluge. Houses are underwater and property damage is in the billions. Many, many thousands have been displaced. Recovery will go on for months or even years.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all victims and their families and for those involved in the recovery process.

Events such as those of this historic August are costly and life-changing. Precious lives lost are irreplaceable, while material possessions can be replaced.

Charitable people, organizations, and communities pour out their support and come together to help those victims of calamities.

But disastrous events like these can bring out the best in us, and they can help us change our perspective on life, recognizing what matters most, what is dear and what is truly important to us.

Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.