AT first, when all the news stories began sending out word about preparation for Hurricane Sandy, I ignored it. Not because I was not in the path of the storm — I have loved ones and dear friends in New Jersey and my former home of New York — but because I chalked it up to yet another hyped big storm warning that plays out relatively fine.
People were talking about hurricane parties. I almost felt like I wished I was there with my friends and family in a dark apartment or house playing cards by candlelight and brewing tea atop a candle flame, too, or perhaps mixing a Manhattan as homage to the storm. Jokes were cracked about being prepared with floating mattresses. It all seemed like good fun, New York City style.
But then the news reports took a turn that made it clear this was serious business. There were the apocalyptish empty streets meeting darkening sky that I saw in photographs.
The empathy anticipation was the worst. As I was speaking with my sisters and friends preparing for the storm there was this eery calm-before-the-storm feeling of waiting. You knew that when the eye of the storm passed and dawn broke the next morning, grand old trees whose roots were loosened by fierce gusts of tempestuous winds would be spilling onto the streets; people’s homes would have become the kindling for electric fires. Some people’s lives would be destroyed.
It makes you feel how small and diminutive you are in the face of the force of nature. There is actually nothing to do, but wait.
The little ones were aware, too. I was speaking with my little nephew who, with his six-year-old imagination was painting a dire picture of being rained out of his house because of rainwater leaking through the roof, a picture of his roof blown off due to gusts of wind, a picture of shattered windows.
I tried to make it playful and told him if it starts raining hard he can pretend that he is Noah in the flood and that his house is his Ark. He can gather all the stuffed animals in the house and take care of them.
His response couldn’t have been more enthusiastic, realizing that his house is structured by three floors, just like the top floor for Noah and his family, the middle level for the animals, the bottom level for the garbage.
Until that moment, I had been feeling pretty good about my playful suggestion that shifted his anxiousness to excitement when I realized what he was about to do with the garbage in the house. Yeah, I didn’t think my sister would be too pleased to have her basement strewn with garbage. Just as he was about to get in trouble for it, I could just see and hear him earnestly yet gleefully look my sister in the eye and say, “but Aunt Teelee told me to do it” or “it was Aunt Teelee’s idea.”
Thankfully, just before the garbage idea took root, he remembered about the bird with a branch in its mouth and the post-diluvian arc of a rainbow over the destroyed world that he couldn’t wait to see.
UNFORTUNATELY, what we saw in pictures in the aftermath of this powerful storm was not the Biblical dove with the olive branch nor a rainbow. Just the devastation. As you survey the damage and see those images, it really does give you a sense of what it was like for Noah when he left the Ark in the wake of the flood and and saw the new, destroyed world all around him.
A friend of mine living in Manhattan with a window view to New Jersey, after a few flickering streaky explosions of light and color across the sky, suddenly said she just saw New Jersey go dark. Just like that.
The haunting pictures, such as of New York City’s famous yellow cabs now submerged under black water, a clean grid of yellowlike squares of cheese, the cabs’ roofs. Or the unfurled Torah scroll, stained wet on black lettering, drying out, rolled out from the Holy Ark at the front of the shul across the tops of dark stained wooden benches all the way to the back door.
At the end of the day, it is times like these where it becomes all about helping each other. Aside from the heart of the help — those heroic boots on the ground of emergency rescue personnel, firefighters and police, doctors and nurses — so many of those citizens, neighbors and strangers who had dodged the bullet come out to do their part and help those who didn’t.
The humanity that you see, the way these catastrophes bring out the best of the human spirit, makes you feel that somehow everything in the world with be OK. New York Sports Club has opened its doors to any New Yorker who has lost electricity or water. New Yorkers are invited to power up their cell phones or computers, to take a hot shower or just exercise to let off somesteam. NYSC is open to New York for the next two weeks.
If New Jersey went dark, the lights always turn up again on Broadway in Manhattan. This coming Sunday is the famous annual New York City Marathon. I bet you will see loads of New Jerseyites and New Yorkers come out to run for those who can’t run, to run for the comeback spirit that New York is.
Sending many prayers to all those who lives were made more difficult from the storm.
Copyright © 2012 by the Intermountain Jewish News