A Post Sandy Update: An Old Friend’s Story and a Trip to Brooklyn

Today in taking the D train into Brooklyn I hoped to either find a place where I could either volunteer to help or end up at Coney Island to see some of the damage.  Instead what I learned today is that the usual rules of travel do not apply.  Obviously there are still service changes on the trains so I knew that I was dealing with that issue, but when it comes to getting somewhere in New York I tend to have a confidence bordering on arrogance.  I believe that I will figure it out as I travel and that no significant planning is necessary.  Under normal circumstances I am correct.  Today I was not.  So when I got off the train at Bay Parkway to go to Coney Island, instead of my walk getting me to somewhere where I could do some good, all it did was provide me with about 2 miles worth of walking.  Sure I was in the general vicinity of one of the hardest hit spots, and I did see cleanups in progress, but had it not been for my chance encounter on Stillwell & 86th Street, my trip would have been a waste of time.

While passing a gas station on this particular corner I thought I heard someone shout out “Dave!”  There are some occasions when you hear your name called that your gut reaction is that it is not you the person is calling.  Nevertheless you always look because IT IS your name you are hearing.  This was the case for me today.  As it would happen, getting out of one of the cars waiting in line for gas was an old friend named Desiree.  I worked with her over 5 years ago.  Desiree’s memory was so eerily good she remembered things about my life I had already forgotten.  It was 4PM and Desiree, who was celebrating her birthday, had been in line for gas since 3:30AM.  This was a gas station she frequents, but told me that the man working there who sees her normally was anything but nice today.  There were already problems there earlier that had required police involvement and this man’s patience was wearing thin.  I admired Desiree’s persistence and diligence but when I left her I was fairly certain she was not going to be getting any gas today.

Desiree lives a few blocks from Coney Island.  She was without power until yesterday.  She actually was surrounded by blocks that had powers days earlier, but for some reason it took longer for hers to be restored.  The thing she told me that was fascinating was what happened during the peak of the storm.  As the water was rising it was closing in on her from 2 directions.  It was clearly rising fast and the feeling of it closing in on here scared her to the point of paralysis.  I have not seen Desiree in over 5 years, but one of the things I remember about her, is that she is tough.  For this to scare her to this extent just puts emphasis on what I’ve heard from others who experienced the storm surge.  It looked like Titanic.

I have heard many things said this past week that were frightening and disturbing.  One of the most poignant statements was from my brother Marcel who reminded me that with all the devastation, this was only a Category 1 storm.  The thought of what might have happened if it was a Category 3 storm or stronger is somewhat terrifying.  However, what Desiree told me today, at least for me, was the most frightening thing I had heard.  From what she saw firsthand, if the storm surge had lasted about another 15 minutes, the devastation we’ve seen this past week would have been significantly more widespread.

There was some comic relief provided by the people who seemed to get aggravated at Desiree for not having the answers to their gasoline related questions.  It was even funnier when they asked me because I don’t even own a car, but they’d have no way of knowing that.

So the cleanup continues, it appears as though Long Island is still very much in the dark, and it is getting very cold in New York.  Let’s hope and pray the worst hit find a way to stay warm.  And for those of you who are wondering, the crane looks secured but my street is still closed.  Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

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