Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Lunch Box Chronicles Day One Hundred Seventy (Distant Observations from Close-By: Hurricane Sandy)

Distant Observations [of Hurricane Sandy] from Close-By (by Beth George)

October 29, 2012 – late night 

Cloistered in my living room on W. 187th and Cabrini watching the screen report on the unfathomable destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy.  The reality of Mother Nature’s assault on my adopted City is brought to me via CNN. 

With a simple click of the remote all sense of chaos disappears, until it hits me that I cannot get off of this island.  All bridges, tunnels, and subways are closed.  Highways are flooded.  If you have not been ordered to evacuate,  official orders are to stay inside.   But, it is so peaceful in my apartment and on my street.  Perhaps, someone has made a mistake?

Came here seeking refuge in the vastness, anonymity, and opportunity of the Big Apple. Landed here in the Heights by chance.  The enclave of Hudson Heights within Washington Heights is among the cheapest of the safest neighborhoods in Manhattan.  Little did I realize that it was also among the safest when an unprecedented storm hits the City.

Being home to the fortress-like Monastery, known as the Cloisters, should have been a hint of the Heights protective nature.  It’s no surprise George Washington chose it as his headquarters during the Revolutionary War given its location perched above the Henry Hudson boasting the highest point in Manhattan. So I sit in my solid apartment fortress in the City of all Cities sheltered from the angering wind and rising waters watching the screen, wondering, and thinking, “Maybe I should pray tonight.”

October 30, 2012 – even later than the night before 

The Seal of NYC
While this neighborhood has been protected, the pain of the City permeates throughout its veins.   The wind has died down, the waters have started to recede, but the lives lost will never be forgotten, and destruction at every level – below, on and above ground  - is unthinkable.  What will happen? 

The subway system, the grand equalizer of this City, the way 5 million people – regardless of wealth, race or class commute throughout this extensive beehive of boroughs, and into neighboring NJ, is closed.  Many of its stations are under water.  How will the millions who make this City churn get from here to there while this 108 year old subway system is gasping for breath?

This City is so vast, so diverse.  Who could believe that so much destruction could happen in one place in one night? Enter Mother Nature, perhaps with Mankind messing her up a bit.

Solid little fortresses in Hudson Heights are protected from the wrath.  Grand high rises in Mid-Town are threatened by an errant storm-damaged crane teetering menacingly over Mid-Town.  Breezy Point Queens, a tight-knit coastal community, was devastated by raging fires leaving 80 homes (most recent count 110) burnt to the ground.  And, communities along the coast in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island are underwater.  Nearly a quarter of a million people are without power.  Cars are floating down Wall Street; Lower Manhattan virtually has been swallowed by the sea; the tunnels between Brooklyn and Manhattan are underwater; rail yards are under water; and the Battery has been battered.

But, it is the subways, the grand equalizers that are haunting me.  How in the world will they pump out the water and get these veins pumping again?  The words of Joe Loda, the MTA chief keep echoing in my ears “The worst disaster the mass transit has seen in 108 years it has been running.”

Yet still, I sit in my quiet little fortress in Upper Manhattan and I have seen none of this.

October 31, 2012 – wee hours of the morning

I should be asleep, but I can’t.  The screen reminds me that NYC is not the only place crying.  All of NJ has been declared a State of Emergency.  Governor Christie says it’s some of the worst damage he has ever seen.  Seaside, NJ has been buried by sand, reminiscent of the City of Pompeii, yet these homes instead of being locked in time will be washed out to sea.  Hoboken, our neighbor to the West, is under water, half of its residents trapped in their homes.  And, the list goes on.  And, next we hear from neighboring Connecticut – also underwater.  And the list goes on.

Yet still, I sit in my quiet little fortress in Upper Manhattan and I have seen none of this.

This bliss won’t last.  I will venture out, but in the meantime, I will do something that I do not do often.  I will pray. 

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