Over the past few days, having followed the events of Hurricane Sandy, I witnessed many individuals, politicians, and media outlets drop their normal agenda to address the most important issues at hand. Although nothing I can say or do in my forum will have anything close to the importance or significance of what I’ve seen done by others, I am nevertheless following that lead to write this following piece.
I’ve lived in New York since 1985. For many who live here the past few days brings back memories of various events to impact the city, most notably the blackout of 2003 and of course the attacks on 9/11. The blackout of 2003 and the 9/11 attacks are of course enormously different events. 9/11 saw the murder of 3 thousand people and impacted tens of thousands more either directly or indirectly on that day. It was a devastating event that caused fear, sadness and anger. Although the blackout of 2003 impacted millions directly on that day, it was far less significant than 9/11. It was an easy day to get past and for many even to look back at with a smile. For some, myself included, the blackout of 2003 was actually a fun day.
What struck me as the most important similarity between the 2 days was the ability of New Yorkers to properly distinguish between them, primarily in regards to their reaction and behavior. New York stood out for the entire world on 9/11 in the way sadness and anger mixed with resolve, kindness, and determination. Unless you were here for the blackout, what you would not know is that on that day New Yorkers got it as well. They had it in the right perspective, dealt with it, and even made the most of it. This ability to know the right way to react, and instinctively understand the level of importance of situations, was something I witnessed once again these past few days.
Upon its approach Hurricane Sandy was being referred to as the perfect storm. Part of its “perfection” was that it had a more direct negative impact on more people in NY than any event I’ve witnessed. 9/11 impacted everyone emotionally, many directly. Sandy impacted almost everyone directly in one way or another. But true to New York form, the resolve and perspective has been remarkable. It is hard to explain, but I will give it my best shot. No one makes light of all the damage done and although minimal, the loss of life is the greatest loss there is, but there are different levels of loss and devastation. Families that lost their homes in fires and flooding are devastated in a way that everyone would expect, but they seem to take solace in their survival and in the support of the entire community. It is very clear that when things get bad in New York people bond together in a very special way. It doesn’t matter if it is Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan, Brooklyn, or the Bronx. When part of New York gets hit, all of New York gets hit. What happens to one happens to all. All people feel it in one way or another. And of course the New York City Police and Fire Departments perform as they always do, with strength, conviction, and competence.
Everyone’s hearts go out to all those who suffered these past few days in all places impacted by this devastating storm, and courage and strength has been shown by so many people all over the country, but because of what I see every time New York city is in crisis, and the great respect and appreciation I have for the way New Yorkers conduct themselves when it matters most, I once again feel honored and humbled to live in what I consider to be the greatest city in the world.
To all of you affected by the storm everywhere, I wish you a quick and safe recovery.