Tuesday, October 29, 2013

One Year Ago

 Such a beautifully normal day today - got up, went to work, came home again, really appreciated the ordinariness of the day as contrasted to what we all went through here in NYC one year ago. This snippet was taken on my last trip outside that day, I was coming down with a cold and a little before 3:00, with the wind and rain starting to pick up, I decided to run out and get some cold medicine, I really didn't want to deal with the asthma that sometimes crops up if I don't keep myself dried up with decongestants when I'm sick with the weather being this bad. After this, I just hunkered down at home and watched the storm get worse and worse outside. TQ, who works for NYC Parks, spent the first part of the day out on the Rockaway Peninsula with his co-workers trying to shore up whatever last things they could; at one point we'd talked about me going over to see to the dogs if he couldn't make it home; fortunately he did because after a certain point I would have been scared to make the ten-minute walk to his place.

I still feel very very lucky that I was so basically unaffected, my big Sandy story is that we had the power go out in our building for a couple of hours so I had to eat a steak that was in the refrigerator. And my rosemary bush died out in Canarsie when floodwaters covered the club - but each time I walked to the club for quite some time after the storm, I would be walking past sodden heaps of the belongings of the local residents who'd also been flooded. A rosemary bush is nothing, and replaceable. The club itself looked quite messed up when we all first got there, a big workday put a lot of it back to rights and then the members who are electricians and carpenters and such got to work fixing the things that required professional intervention. TQ worked very hard for the rest of the winter (he works for the parks department and works on the Rockaway Peninsula) and I did a couple of days volunteering for cleanups and saw a lot of destruction, but as far as our own personal lives & property, we were very fortunate. Still very grateful today.

Here are a few albums of the aftermath - the first is from my neighborhood, the next day. It was perfectly sensible of me to be afraid to go outside too much later than the hour at which I shot the video - we have a lot of beautiful old trees in Midwood, and with the speed the wind was blowing many of them went down. Mostly it was cars and less frequently a roof or a porch that took the brunt of falling trees, but we did lose a young couple who went out to walk their dog at the height of the storm, very sad. Day After Sandy, Midwood.

The big cleanup at Sebago was on Saturday, November 3rd - click here for that.

The following Saturday, the 10th of November, I joined my friends from the Coney Island - Brighton Beach Open-Water Swimmers (CIBBOWS) for a day of cleanup at Coney Island. This was the only day I was able to join these folks but they did a lot more - I was really impressed by how much they gave back to the community, which like so many shoreline communities was one of the hardest hit. The CIBBOWS crew did a lot of cleaning up and then they also helped out with distributing food and checking in on older residents who were trapped in their apartments by power outages. Swimmers like to swim but for a while the CIBBOWS crew was getting their exercise climbing stairs - my hat is still off to them.

My third volunteer day was a few weeks later, right at the beginning of December. This time I joined a friend from the New York City kayaking community who had also really impressed me by the amount of volunteering he's done; Carl is actually an outdoor-sports professional, does a lot of work coordinating athletic events. This was his off-season and he was throwing himself into the cleanup effort with gusto, going somewhere different every time the call went out. He'd done a couple of days out on the Rockaway Peninsula where he'd met TQ, who was serving as a crew chief and working a lot with the volunteers - he mentioned on Facebook that he was going out that weekend and what started out as a joke (Hey Carl, I should come with you and surprise TQ!) ended up actually happening when we figured out that I could actually get to somewhere where he could pick me up on the way. That was a rewarding but sobering day - at that point my neighborhood was pretty much back to normal, the city workers had done a very efficient job with the trees, our subway was running, and my office was open; I did have regular reminders that things were far from normal from friends who lived in more affected areas and were posting regularly about what they were dealing with, plus of course TQ was out there dealing with it every day and he would come home with stories, but for me it was pretty much over and done. Visiting the Rockaway Peninsula was a good reminder that it wasn't close to over for a whole lot of people. Click here for that album - and keep in mind, I wasn't entirely comfortable taking pictures of smashed homes, there is one at the end but we saw a lot. The park we were working in was actually a bright note - TQ had been helping to oversee the cleaning from the beginning, when he said the entire brand-new playground was under 3 feet of sand. Keep that in mind, it'll help you appreciate how many people had worked terribly hard to get it where it was the day I went - people really did pull together in the most admirable way after Sandy.

PS - Best wishes going out to any friends or readers who have just gone through the big storm in Europe. I hope you and yours are all well.

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