CHARLESTON, S.C. - "We are tied to the ocean," an avid sailor and president named John F. Kennedy once said. "And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch, we are going back from whence we came."
Humans have an affinity for water. It is in the genetic makeup of a species first nurtured in the watery womb. We evolved, scientists tell us, from the primordial deep. In America, it is clear: We instinctively find comfort where water flows over the earth.
But in these recent jumbled days, the collapsed houses, flooded subway tunnels and washed-out roads left in Superstorm Sandy's wake remind us once again: Our deep-seated human desire to be near the water - to be attracted and comforted by it, to build alongside it and crave its attractions - has an undeniable dark side.
Whether it is Sandy, the unprecedented winds and floods of Katrina that wiped away much of New Orleans or rivers overflowing their banks after torrential rains in a small upstate New York community, the joy of living near the water is often counterbalanced by the increasing devastation water can bring.
"The water surrounding some of our cities is starting to be a liability," says Daniel Stokols, the chancellor's professor at the School of Social Ecology at the University of California-Irvine.
We know that. Yet still we are fiercely attracted to the water. And after disaster, wisely or not, we rebuild beside it, be it in New Orleans, on the New Jersey coast or in Binghamton, N.Y.
Contractors were busy during the weekend repairing the home of Jay Shaw in Westport, Conn., after Sandy blew through. His colonial house, a picturesque Long Island Sound and lighthouse view, suffered an estimated half-million dollars damage. But he wasn't complaining.
"It sort of goes with the territory," he said. "I just sort of expect every five years to have a week of disaster to deal with."
The weekend also found rocker Jon Bon Jovi singing in a concert to raise money for Sandy's victims and saying this: "The entire Jersey Shore that I knew is gone." Already there was wide talk of rebuilding - and ample cautions that what rises again may be far different from what existed before.
Almost a quarter century ago, people said similar things after Charleston's quaint alleys and quiet gardens were ravaged by Hurricane Hugo, a Category 4 storm that tossed boats into piles like toys, broke houses on the barrier islands into matchsticks and left residents in the dark for weeks.
Now bigger, plusher vacation homes line many of the streets on those palmetto-shaded islands, and among the only vestiges of the hurricane are stands of still-broken trees in nearby Francis Marion National Forest.
Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005, leaving 80 percent of the city underwater and killing 1,800 people. Many areas have since been rebuilt, though in poorer neighborhoods, like the 9th Ward, the road to recovery has been far slower. The city's population of about 360,000 is still about 120,000 fewer than before the storm.
Despite such disasters for many, water is a place to relax, touch nature and enjoy a side of life that the cubicle and the 9-to-5 commute can't offer.