November 18, 2012
Nice to see people back to work in force, last week. The roads were slow and congested with the many shuttles going into NYC from NJ, while trains along the Jersey coastline were still undergoing major repairs- there was a tugboat that hit a railroad bridge over the Raritan river, and washouts along the tracks. An NBC news employee at the bus stop told me there were over 193,000 commuters displaced by the train shut-down. That’s a lot of busses on the roads.
They’ve brought in busses and drivers from all over to make it work. I’ve had drivers from Rhode Island, Boston- and some who said they were driving into NYC for the very first time. Admirable, really. Nice people- all of them. The commuters in the front row would help them find the way and make sure they found the bus lane. Most of the subways are running, except downtown. Reports there were that the water actually reached the top of some of those tunnels at one point. Today, the Brooklyn Battery tunnel- which had been severely flooded, was opened. And many of the trains will be starting to run tomorrow, too. Lots of progress.
It’s still mind boggling to see some of the footage that’s coming out as people are able to share videos from some of the harder hit areas. Tonight, we saw a National Geographic special on that showed aerial and ground tours of the worst areas. In the aftermath, it showed people coming together in streets, lighting fires to stay warm, together. We saw one woman going into her home for the first time- seeing the water lines near the ceiling, seeing all her furniture moved and in disarray- so disoriented by it, she kept saying, ‘We didn’t move anything. We kept it nice in here. We really did’, and then, seeing the refrigerator sideways on the floor, “that’s my fridge. I filled it up before the storm, thinking…”.
They explained how the force of the tidal surge can actually shear houses from their foundations and move them- showing footage of houses or second floors of houses, moved out on streets, into marshes- one on a bridge. They also explained how lower manhattan was actually built out into the water with landfill over the past 100 years- and how the water actually came up to its normal level, where it used to be.
Amazingly, no one died in the fires that destroyed almost 100 homes in Breezy Point, Queens. In today’s New York Times, there were lists of the deaths associated with the storm and how they happened. People drowned. People were hit by trees. They died from carbon monoxide poisoning from generators in enclosed basements. You can see it in today’s NYT, Mapping Hurricaine Sandy’s Deadly Toll.
As people sort through the rubble, a heartbreaking task, there are moments of joy when something precious is found. The NYT has been posting daily images that are awful and heartbreaking, and sometimes hopeful, all at once. One was an image of a woman and her husband smiling amongst the complete wreckage of their home, because they’d found a safe containing their family genealogy. You can see that image and others here: NYT daily photo, Nov 15. One photo from last week showed a man shoveling sand out of his house- it looked like a foot of sand, at least- and he’s chipping away at that, one wheelbarrow at a time. From his entire first floor.
There are areas, most notably, the Rockaways- where there’s still no electricity- no heat or water. And no estimate for when they’ll get it. These are people who don’t necessarily have the resources to relocate. It’s awful. In the areas hardest hit- there are so many people who are now homeless. So many lives that will be forever changed. I can’t help thinking about all of the children who are not able to go to school, and how we’ll remedy that. There’s a school nearby in Union Beach, NJ, that is collecting via an Amazon wishlist to gather supplies for its students- it’s an easy way to help: Union Beach wishlist. The NYT published a list of ways to help– where to contribute money or supplies, and lists of what’s needed.
There’s so much to be horrified by- the devastation, the people who’s lives have been turned upside down, the damage that remains, even now, to the infrastructure of our power and transportation services. But there’s comfort in getting to work and doing what we can to help those less fortunate.
So let’s do that. Live on. And help out. Keep it moving forward.