About the Book
Amanda Ripley, an award-winning journalist for Time magazine who has covered some of the most devastating disasters of our age, set out to discover what lies beyond fear and speculation. In this magnificent work of investigative journalism, Ripley retraces the human response to some of history’s epic disasters, from the explosion of the Mont Blanc munitions ship in 1917–one of the biggest explosions before the invention of the atomic bomb–to a plane crash in England in 1985 that mystified investigators for years, to the journeys of the 15,000 people who found their way out of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Then, to understand the science behind the stories, Ripley turns to leading brain scientists, trauma psychologists, and other disaster experts, formal and informal, from a Holocaust survivor who studies heroism to a master gunfighter who learned to overcome the effects of extreme fear.
Finally, Ripley steps into the dark corners of her own imagination, having her brain examined by military researchers and experiencing through realistic simulations what it might be like to survive a plane crash into the ocean or to escape a raging fire.
Ripley comes back with precious wisdom about the surprising humanity of crowds, the elegance of the brain’s fear circuits, and the stunning inadequacy of many of our evolutionary responses. Most unexpectedly, she discovers the brain’s ability to do much, much better, with just a little help.
The Unthinkable escorts us into the bleakest regions of our nightmares, flicks on a flashlight, and takes a steady look around. Then it leads us home, smarter and stronger than we were before.
But first, before anyone else, regular people were on the scene, saving one another. They did incredible things, these regular people. They lifted rubble off survivors with car jacks. They used garden hoses to force air into voids where people were trapped. In fact, as in most disasters, the vast majority of rescues were done by ordinary folks.
Okay, so this was perhaps the perfect book for me to read at the time I read it. It give many different examples of how regular people handle disastrous situations. This included how things were after Katrina, which I feel helped me out while trying to both grasp and deal with my own situation. Although those two storms hurricanes were quite different, there were many similarities to how every day normal people reacted.
In the aftermath, while everything was still crazy, my kid's entire school system started a food and clothing bank and gave away items to any family within the system that needed it... and then donated everything else to Beaumont, who were still dealing with their own devastation from Harvey. One of the kids that I nanny's entire school went under water - and it's a private school. Another private school made room for their entire student body to attend classes there - which they're still doing now, btw. Because the damage was massive. Hell, even Sofia, the platypire, volunteered her time at a local church overnight for many days and saw some pretty heavy things. And those are just a small number of things that I personally witnessed within my small bubble.
This book deals with some pretty heavy topics. Hurricanes and the different reactions people have to stress and trauma is just a small percent. There's also 9/11, a school shooting, other natural disasters, and the list goes on. It's really a very fascinating read. Even without first hand experiencing a disaster while reading it. Which I hope nobody else does - because it's stressful AF.
I highly recommend it for reading, hoping nobody goes through anything like in this book - but just to be prepared in the chance it does occur. I think having this in the back of ones mind would trigger something in those types of situations. Maybe even help someone in the long run.