by Piers Morgan
Natural disasters are great levellers, figuratively and literally.
They spare nobody, regardless of wealth or colour, background or creed.
Billionaire tycoon Sir Richard Branson was no more able to defend his Caribbean home on Necker Island from the ravages of Hurricane Irma than the poorest family in nearby Barbuda.
The horror and tragedy created by storms, earthquakes, floods, volcano eruptions and blizzards can be utterly devastating.
But these disasters invariably inspire the very best of humanity too.
Never has this been more apparent than during the past fortnight as first Hurricane Harvey and now Hurricane Irma have wrought their deadly havoc.
The first responders have excelled themselves, working incredibly long shifts to save people, without a thought for their own safety.
How heart-warming has it been to see so many of them wading through water clutching women and children, or pulling them up to the safety of helicopters?
Just as inspiring has been the response from ordinary people who’ve never had to rescue anyone in their lives and have zero training to do it.
I think of those neighbours in Houston who formed a human chain to help a woman in labour wade get to safety through rising floodwaters.
I think of the pastor in the same city who swam for hours a day checking cars to see if anyone was inside.
I think of the little girl on the outskirts of Miami who saved her family and others after she smelled smoke from a fire sparked by Irma’s fury and jumped out of bed to raise the alarm. Her house is gone, along with two others next to it – but thanks to her quick-thinking, three families survived.
I think of all those who have worked so hard to save threatened animals too, from family cats and dogs to large herds of cattle and congregations of alligators.
I think right now of the local villagers who are cutting through giant fallen trees with chainsaws to reach the trapped husband and two baby children of a friend of mine in the British Virgin Islands.
And I think of the hundreds of small boats pulled by myriad trucks to Houston from all across the South, driven by people prepared to sacrifice their own time, money and property, and to risk their own lives, to save complete strangers. This was Texas’s Dunkirk, and no less important or valiant.
The past two weeks have also been a supreme test of two endlessly squabbling foes: the US President and the US media.
It’s been a test they have both passed superbly well.
Donald Trump’s finally learned how to be presidential. He put his taunting, aggressive, fight-picking stick away and replaced it with a much-needed compassionate carrot.
Whether you love him or loathe him, only the most deranged Trump critic could deny that he has risen to the challenge of these record-breaking storms with calm authority and efficiency, and appropriate concern.
He has utilised the full force of the federal government in a way that has, I’m told, greatly impressed those at state level involved at the sharp end of trying to fight the storms.
And unlike George Bush’s shameful abrogation of responsibility over Katrina, Trump has personally gone to where the action is and shown real care for those caught up in it.
He even kissed little babies left temporarily homeless. Many mocked those images, but I felt it was genuine and it was good to finally see Trump displaying the human side that his family and friends know exists but which he usually prefers to keep hidden from the world for reasons that baffle me.
This has also been the moment when CNN rediscovered its mojo.
I’ve watched in increasing despair since Trump’s election as my old network ditched its hard-fought non-partisan reputation to go to bitchy, belittling, toxic war with the President as if he were their political opponent.
Hurricane season has served as a timely reminder, not least perhaps to CNN itself, that America’s first and best 24-hour cable news channel is at its most effective when it commits its vast resource to reporting the news as it happens, with courage, tenacity and a simple desire to tell the truth.
Last night, like many millions around the world, I watched former colleagues like Chris Cuomo, Kyung Lah and Jon Berman reporting for long, hugely difficult hours from the very eye of the hurricane. They were outstanding.
A week ago, I watched live as CNN reporter Ed Lavendera rescued a helpless old man from his water-logged home in Houston. That, too, was a stunning piece of socially responsible journalism.
THIS is CNN, not lining up a bunch of sneering Trump-bashing pundits to spend all day mocking and abusing the president for whatever he says or does, in a blatant, cynical bid for ratings and money.
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SOURCE: Daily Mail