Hurricanes, cars and perspective

September 14, 2017

Natural disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have a way of putting life into perspective. I was reminded of this basic truth by some of the stories coming into our claims department at my company, Hagerty, during and after the storms. At any normal time, we provide some of the central services that people who love cars need to protect and enjoy their vehicles, from insurance and valuation to car lifestyle events, media and information.

But in times of crisis, there is something more essential that we provide. On call after call, people who rode out the storms or who just returned home would quickly describe what happened to their cherished ride. But then they would pivot to how the storm affected them and their loved ones. The messages were loud and clear: stuff matters, but people matter much more.
One man, for instance, lost his prized 1967 Pontiac GTO and a 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback to Hurricane Harvey, and he certainly wasn’t happy about it. But it didn’t matter because his wife and 1-year-old were safe – they had just been air-lifted out of harm’s way by a Coast Guard helicopter.

Another man near Houston called from the roof of his home about his ruined car. “I have to go,” he said a few minutes into the conversation. “The boat is here to rescue me.”

And finally, a Florida grandfather said he decided to ride out Irma in his hurricane-proof house with his wife, children and grandchildren. No big deal – he’d weathered hurricanes before. How bad could this one be? Well, as it turned out, pretty bad. Irma’s fury surpassed anything he’d experienced before, and he ended up concerned for his family’s safety. “I’ll never do that again,” he said.

These stories struck a chord in me. The objects we surround ourselves with can mean the world to us. They can come to stand for who we think we are. But when disaster strikes, different priorities come into sharp focus. And for us, this is the human truth behind the love of the automobile. This is why we are proud to be here for the people who love cars.

Cherish life, not stuff.

Note: The fight to help people recover from Irma and Harvey will be a lengthy one. If you’d like to help, Charity Navigator, a nonprofit that vets charities, has a list of highly-rated nonprofits directly helping hurricane victims. To view their list, click here.