Last week, New Yorkers ran into the streets, not knowing what hit them.

Buildings started to shake, trees swayed in an uncommon fashion and no one knew what was going on.

A few days later, New Yorkers were preparing for a hurricane that was dubbed by some a “monster” if it were to hit New York with the force of a Category 1 storm or higher.

Well, we survived the earthquake, though it rattled some to the core.

For many, the thought of an earthquake on the Eastern Seaboard was just a fleeting thought, but after Tuesday’s quake, the reality of the possibility of “the big one” made people take notice. What would happen if a major quake hit New York? Would we know what to do? Would we know where to go?

Unlike a hurricane, earthquakes give no warning. But even with warnings, these deadly natural disasters are getting increasingly common.

A major hurricane has not hit New York in decades. We have had storms, but we have not have had this level of devastation. Irene came in with a fury, and the city and state knew that this storm would wallop New York and the surrounding areas. While some believe the preparations taken by the city were an undue burden, others believe it was entirely the right move (see Jonathan Hicks’ column).

Shutting down the subway system for almost two days stopped and crippled the city, but at the same time it may have saved countless lives. It made people stay home. They really had no choice; there was no place to go. The city was on lockdown. Even those places that are always open were closed on this particular weekend.

Even so, we still lost lives. If you went just a few minutes outside of the city, the devastation was apparent. In Westchester, thousands are still without power, as is also the case in Nassau and Suffolk counties. And if you venture upstate to Delaware County and further north, whole towns have been washed away.

We are in a cycle of weather that we have never seen before-at least not in our lifetimes. The question is, who is responsible? Is it just Mother Nature or is it that we have so abused our land that this has become inevitable? Is this just a scratch on the surface of what is to come?

This is the only planet we have. If we continue to mistreat it, it will fire back. If you think this earthquake was a shocker, try a 7.0. If you think Irene created a mess, consider a Category 3 or 4 hitting our shores. And what about the tornadoes that have sprung up in areas that had never experienced them before?

These are not coincidences. This is our lack of concern and compassion for our surroundings. If we don’t change, the decision will be made for us.