Sunday, November 4, 2012

Reflections on Hurricane Sandy

The events of the past week have certainly given us pause. Every day I see new images of heartbreaking devastation caused by Sandy. I have also heard stories of extreme bravery and heroism. I read about an off-duty firefighter who swam through water five feet deep in his street to rescue several people and their family pets (dogs and parrots) from the rising flood. I have had difficulty concentrating on work and my everyday activities as images of Sandy infiltrate my consciousness.

I left NY State in 1975 and never looked back, but I still have a lot of friends and family in the Northeast. My dad lives in NJ, my brother and his family in PA. I have cousins in Brooklyn and Rochester. I have friends living in Manhattan, Hoboken, Ipswich, NY, NJ, PA, MA. My friend in Hoboken posted on Facebook that she was sitting tight in her third-floor apartment but the first floor of her building had flooded under water four feet deep. Another friend in Sudbury posted that a tree had fallen across his driveway on his cars. Others posted that they had lost power, some are still without power as the weather turns colder. Seeing the NY subway under water and cars submerged in a parking lot in NJ seems surreal. Now that the storm has receded, I have seen photos of Atlantic City and Long Beach Island that look like the photos of Japan after the tsunami last year. The tsunami in Japan was far away from me. Sandy feels as though it was in my back yard, despite the fact that I live in Cali, because so many folks near and dear to me were in the middle of it.

Here are a couple of photos my friend Helen took of the street in front of her apartment in Hoboken.

And here is a photo of my friend Larry’s driveway with the tree down on top of his cars.

As the storm rolled in, I began emailing and texting my teenage niece and nephew in PA. They live not far from the Delaware River, which floods regularly under normal winter conditions. Fortunately they are on higher ground. They had no flooding but they lost their power early on and it was out for several days. They went to a neighbor’s house in the evenings to cook dinner on a gas grill. My brother bought a small generator they used to recharge the phones and go online for a few minutes every night to send me emails. I was so grateful for the texts and emails that kept me informed of how they were doing. Also, Facebook was a godsend. I got so much news from my family/friend circle there, and I continue to follow events unfolding as the power remains off for some of my people.

Interestingly, I had a conversation with friends on Sunday night about Facebook. They hate it and prefer to avoid it. It became abundantly clear to me this past week that I get my most local news on Facebook, where I find our how the events large and small going on in the world directly impact the people in my life. I have several levels of news input. National news from my weekly Time Magazine, daily newspaper, and the online news at MSNBC and NPR. Local news I get from the newspaper and from email newsletters and announcements. My most “local” intimate news about those dear to me I get on Facebook, which truly helped me get through Sandy by keeping me in touch with my people in the Northeast.

Finally, I want to talk about the lesson from Sandy that’s sitting in the middle of the road. Obvious to me and so many others but obviously not obvious to everyone. Much as the Republicans would like to pretend that the Dems invented climate change to win votes, it just ain’t so. Climate change is for real and it caused Sandy. Fools may question the science of global warming until their houses float off into the ocean, but it won’t stop their houses from floating away. Governor Cuomo said, “Anyone who says that there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns I think is denying reality. I told the president the other day:  ‘We have a 100-year flood every 2 years now’.” The sea level has risen because of global warming. The increase in temperature is what caused the hurricane to form in the first place and what caused it to make landfall rather than dissipating out over the ocean. Global warming is what caused it to cover such an astonishingly large area. Recent warming in the Arctic played a role in the formation and movement pattern of Sandy. In short, Sandy was a manmade disaster.

So we have an election coming up on Tuesday and I think the most important question for people to ask themselves is “Who is going to fight for our survival on this planet?” I know who reads my blog. I’m preaching to the choir. I hope that some of those other people who don’t read my blog find a way to wake up before it’s too late for all of us. In parting, let me share with you the link to a short montage of images and Bloomberg’s words put together by my friend Andrea in NY and her partner Jacob. The images are photos that Jacob took in their neighborhood right after the storm. Here’s the link.

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