I'm still reeling with survivor's guilt from Superstorm Sandy, and as I write this, a nor'easter is making conditions miserable outside and adding insult to injury. I grew up and live in Manhattan, a place where we worry
about being able to afford sky-high rents, getting our kids into a good public
school (or figuring out a way to finagle them into a good private one), and we
concern ourselves with staying alert to lunatics on the subways and sidewalks. Worrying
about storms and hurricanes? Not so much.
Last August, we panicked and prepared for Hurricane Irene. We stocked up on food and water, flashlight
batteries, candles, and debated whether or not to tape up the windows. (We
didn’t.) Manhattan was basically spared. This
time around, the warnings for Sandy were even more ominous, but we did the
same. What else could we do? We took the
kids, a 13 and a 19-year-old, out to the store where they helped us load up on
water, food, flashlight batteries, and then at home we debated, once again, whether
or not to tape up the windows. (We didn’t.) On pre-storm Facebook, New Yorkers
joked about having enough wine. Calls and emails from friends abroad and around
the county came in, concerned for our well-being. We explained to them that
lower Manhattan was the main at-risk zone, and that our Harlem neighborhood,
perched high on Sugar Hill, was probably not going to feel much of the pain. Yet,
when they shut down the subway system in New York City, you know it’s serious.
The kids got a little more worried, then we got a little more worried.
A final trip out was made for more water and snacks, requisite
photos of the 13-year-old blowing in the wind were taken. When we finally hunkered down for dinner and a screening of Moonrise Kingdom, we heard the wind and rain whipping fiercely outside of our windows, and waited
anxiously. Obviously that’s the thing about hurricanes; you never know what will
happen. Even when they downgrade the hurricane's status to "Superstorm Sandy," which unfortunately sounds like Barbie's best friend, you still don't rest easy. You have to let go, but you don’t sleep peacefully.
In the morning, we looked out of the window to a silent
wet, gray morning. Other than a few trees down in Riverside Park, we could not access any damage in our vicinity. But when we turned on the news and found devastation, we
all felt very, very grateful. We were safe and dry, with electricity, food, and running water. I felt a little guilty. In the days to follow, housebound, we were all
glued to the television. Our downtown neighbors with no electricity or heat; flooded
subway tunnels; evacuations from downtown hospitals whose generator’s failed;
Hoboken under water; fallen trees killing people in their homes; multiple carbon
monoxide deaths; drowning deaths; Staten Island looking as though it had been
hit by a wrecking ball; no gas at the pumps, and the worst news of one
particular day, the discovery of the lifeless bodies of the two little Moore
children, ages two and four, found in a field after they had been swept out of
their mother’s arms.
Lives have been shattered, and for the survivors, there
remains the anxiety of knowing that no one is safe from natural disasters. Your
luck can change in an instant, from borough to borough, or in a few city
blocks. These are the moments when, hopefully, at least for awhile, we cease to complain about foolishness.
Labels: Hurricane Irene, Superstorm Sandy, Survivor's guilt.