A dark, downtown Manhattan.
What a week.
Immediately following Sandy on Tuesday last week, I was pretty optimistic. My 7 mile drive to work was really quick, and aside from a few downed trees there was not much damage between my neighborhood of Williamsburg and where my office is in Canarsie. A few of our employees had no power or issues with trees falling through windows there were dealing with, but more the most part everyone was fine and made it to work okay. Despite having no power, my friends in downtown Manhattan all kept in touch via Facebook when they were able to charge their cellphones, and everything seemed on the up and up. Sure, it was going to take the city a bit to get mass transit back up and running, as well as the power, but that was to be expected.
So in my mind, I continued as if it was business as usual.
Jim and I don’t have live TV and tend to get most of our information on the internet. Since most of my friends are either in Williamsburg or downtown Manhattan, I knew besides not having power that everything for the most part was okay. It wasn’t until we had the news on during lunch at work on Wednesday that I really saw what was actually going on in in the city and the absolute devastation of the Rockaways, Coney Island, Red Hook and most memorably Breezy Point.
The Rockaway boardwalk, misplaced by the floodwaters from the beach to the streets of the neighborhood.
A firefighter comes home to his home in Breezy Point to find it burned to the ground.
After seeing the smoldering remains of that small community not minutes from where I go to the beach in the summer, I lost my shit. It took me every ounce of effort not to bawl my eyes out the rest of the day and make it through work and get home.
Starting around Thursday, things got progressively worse. Now there was (and still is) a gas shortage and it affects everyone in the New York City area, including Long Island. Thank goodness Jim topped off my tank Sunday night and my car is very gas efficient. Traffic getting anywhere was (and still is) horrendous. My ride home from work, which usually takes me 20 minutes took me over 90, and it was due to gas lines blocking intersections along with congestion at what few mass transit lines were running. I tweeted this frustration without batting an eye as a selfish means to make myself feel better about this slight inconvenience.
Gas lines form as gas is rationed here.
Friday, I was a bit more optimistic. I took a different route to work which I sailed through easily, and immediately after work we met up with friends for drinks, which was extremely healing. Everyone, especially in our neighborhood has a certain sense of survivors guilt. Though we’re right on the East River, for the most part our neighborhood was untouched. Getting to talk with friends about what we were seeing around us and in the media made me feel like I wasn’t alone in this guilt.
Feeling somewhat better Saturday morning, I made the big mistake of Googling how my hometown survived the storm. I grew up in a town called Massapequa on the south shore of Long Island. My parents moved further east right after I finished High School, and though they live literally directly on the water, since their home was new construction they accounted for high-tides and built their home up high and their home was totally unscathed. They lost about 20 feet of their backyard, but that’s peanuts compared to what I then learned via Google, and coincidentally on Facebook that morning.
What’s left of a house in my hometown, not far from the house I grew up in.
My hometown, specifically right where the house I grew up in is, was completely and utterly devastated. I finally broke down and unleashed a week’s worth of pent-up tears, and it didn’t help me feel any better. I suddenly felt horrendously guilty, especially about my tweet on Thursday bitching about the traffic. I at least had a house, and a car. How could I be so insensitive?
Saturday was really the first chance many people had to start volunteering and putting together donations, and that’s when I started seeing messages from old friends from high school, asking for clothing, food, cleanup materials, and more for their themselves, family and friends who have completely lost their homes. I was also seeing posts from other friends in the city biking down to the Rockaways to help with the cleanup. All I wanted to do was get in my car and drive down there and do what I could to help make the situation better. However with the gas shortage, this wasn’t a possibility for me.
After bawling my eyes out and wasting so much time making myself feel even worse surfing the internet, I without thinking put down my iPad, ran to my cabinets and started pulling stuff out. Canned soup, soaps, bottled water, candles, pet food, tissues, pillows, blankets, coats, toiletries. Jim and I usually stock up at Costco, so we had a lot of stuff we could give to people who need it way more than we do.
All the stuff we donated.
After putting together around 4 giant Ikea bags of donations, we looked up where we could drop them off and learned Roberta’s in Bushwick was taking donations. We drove on over (it was a super short ride, so we used barely any gas) and got there just as a volunteer was filling their car to drive down to the Rockaways. I really commend the volunteers making these delivery trips considering the gas shortage. I hope to be able to do the same thing once gas is easier to find. Having a car in NYC is a luxury and I want to help, but for now the best I could do was clean out my closets and give what I could. It’s starting to get really cold in NYC and I knew people needed those coats.
Jim and I stayed to have lunch at Roberta’s, and while we really enjoyed our meal it seemed so weird that we could easily enjoy this amazing meal while people not even 10 miles from us now are homeless. No matter how hard we’d try, the guilt kept coming back.
That night I made us a home-made comfort meal (my favorite soup, recipe here), and we tried to relax and watch movies. I chose Happy on Netflix, which seems kind of cheesy but seemed appropriate at the time considering I wasn’t very happy and wanted to change that. It actually helped tremendously. The documentary reminded me the path to happiness is not what we have, but how we handle and respond to issues, work as a community, and do what we love to do. This reminded me that I did do my part that morning, and I slept better that night knowing my old coats, pillows and blankets were keeping someone warm and allowing them to sleep comfortably that night.
As I write this now, I realize Sandy’s not going away any time soon. Life will not go back to the way it was before Sandy, ever. It’s going to take us a long time to rebuild, and I can be a part of that in the coming weeks. I can’t keep beating myself up over what I can’t do now. I can instead look and think of what I can do to help moving forward. Day by day, week by week.
Facebook has been pretty tough on me, because it’s a mix of crisis, disaster messages and photos mixed with a bunch of bullshit from friends in family in other parts of the country on them being pissed their team lost the game. Usually on Monday’s I usually try to do a fashion type tutorial post on this blog, but I felt it was more important to let everyone know things are not good over here. I’m not going to compare it to Katrina, because Katrina was worse but Sandy is not far behind it. New York and New Jersey need your help, and donating is the easiest way to do so.
I created a fundraising page to raise funds for the American Red Cross to aid Sandy victims. Every little bit helps. If you can find it in your heart and wallet to help and donate, it would mean the world to me.
And don’t you worry about me, I really have nothing to be upset about now. I’m safe, my family is safe, and that’s the most important thing. I’ll eventually get used to this new reality and it will probably happen sooner rather than later.
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