A week ago today, New Yorkers were scurrying to prepare themselves for the superstorm that had already crippled parts of the Caribbean and was furiously barreling northwards to wreak havoc on huge swathes of the East Coast. Having anti-climactic memories of Irene from only last year being so crisply imbedded in our collective consciousness unfortunately proved a disservice to the region's preparedness. Sandy, dubbed "Frankenstorm" by much of the media, would demonstrate not only the awesome power of nature's forces, but also the profound vulnerability of humanity. Even to the advanced infrastructure of this major world metropolis. Even to us implacable and hardened New Yorkers.
All public transportation was suspended last Sunday evening; all the bridges were closed to all but emergency vehicles, and huge portions of the outer boroughs, as well as parts of Long Island and New Jersey, had imposed mandatory evacuations. Understand that for this "city that never sleeps" to have it's major arteries stopped creates acute restlessness, agitation, and worry. Thinking that these were extreme precautions put in place to make up for Mayor Bloomberg's much criticized unpreparedness during last year's freak October snowstorm, I went to sleep last Monday night listening to the tempest beat against my windows and the wind whip around the buildings, thinking it would all be over by morning.
Of course, you know what happened next.
Upper Manhattan sustained downed trees and was strewn with debris; store awnings, garbage cans, etc., but ultimately the northern half of the island remained unharmed. We never lost power. Six days later, some areas are still without power and remain in desperate need as the temperatures this morning were in the low 40s. Prayers and wishes for a speedy recovery go out to all who have been affected by the storm.
What was perhaps most interesting for me was waking up the morning after the squall to the news that Governor Chris Christie, key-note speaker at the recent Republican convention and campaign-trail super-buddy of Mitt Romney, was praising President Obama for his rapid response to the people of his state. It was as if I went to sleep in a storm and woke up in Oz. To Christie's credit, when Steve Doocy of "Fox and Friends" asked if he thought Mitt Romney was going to tour the affected areas of New Jersey, Christie responded, "If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics then you don't know me." Of course, since then he's been being blasted on Fox news as a traitor to his party. But it's heartening to see bi-partisanship and, dare I say it, even humanity in someone who, up until now, I've found to be a boorish bully. While I'll undoubtedly continue to disagree with his policies, I'll view him in a new light going forward.
Another interesting turn in the aftermath of Sandy was Mayor Bloomberg's decision to go ahead with the New York Marathon as planned. While everyone agrees that, as New Yorkers, our resilience is unparallelled, Bloomie's insistence that we're "back to work and open for business" seemed especially compassionless considering, among other things, that the marathon starts on Staten Island, one of the areas most severely impacted by the hurricane. Bodies were still being pulled from buildings as the Mayor was touting the importance of tourist revenue pouring into the city. Certainly, businesses that have suffered financial losses as a result of the storm and the city itself could benefit from added revenue at this time, but logistically, diverting police and city workers to handle crowd control and hand out bottled water to runners as entire communities struggle to survive seemed pointedly callous. Eventually, the mayor's hand was forced by an angry public outcry, much of it from the visiting runners themselves, and the race was cancelled. Bloomberg's original decision earlier this week to carry on with business as usual clearly illustrated both the reasons why a business mentality might be a benefit in government, but more pointedly and importantly, how governing from a strictly business philosophy might lead to insensitive and unsympathetic decisions where suffering constituents are concerned.
We are New Yorkers, however, and like a great cosmopolite phoenix, we shall rise stronger and more determined than before. Until we've all recovered though, please continue to donate, volunteer, and pray for the communities and families who have suffered unprecedented losses from this freak storm. Aside from having our attention diverted for a few days from this maddening and seemingly endless election season, as I see it, two potential advantages have resulted from the devastation of superstorm Sandy: President Obama has been given the opportunity to look Presidential for the past six days as Romney has desperately scurried for attention, and climate change can no longer be scoffed at or ignored as an illegitimate topic.