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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Aftermath 6, The Kindness of Strangers...

Sunday, I took off from work. The head cold won for a day...or at least I let it think it won for a day.  I slept in until about 8:00.  Yes, I set my clock back before I went to bed.  Every fall, I much prefer this to doing so after I sleep.  It somehow makes the night and that extra hour seem longer.  I can change the time when I'm in a quasi-somnambulistical state, forget I did, and then wake up at a regular time but feel like I've had more sleep.  Anyway, that amount of sleep, almost 9 full hours, seemed to get rid of the aches, most of the snot and a even a tad bit of the coughing.  I'd say by tomorrow morning I'll be closer to 100%.

I wanted to do something, and have wanted to do something all week, with my good fortune following this storm.  Knowing it'd be Wednesday before I could go anywhere that needed help, I opted to donate clothing Sunday because I heard my church was picking things up and taking them to communities in our area, Red Hook and other places on the waterfront.  I also wanted to go to church, even though I told my choir director I wouldn't be there for rehearsal.  Just felt like I needed to be there.  After the harrowing images and stories from this week, and knowing that some of my fellow congregants were affected, I needed to sort of touch base and hear everyone's stories.  Some of the members got up and spoke about their respective adventures throughout the storm.  One woman had a tree on her house and just happened to have taken her family out for dinner that night while the storm was just starting to get bad, so no one was in the house when it happened.  Another, our junior minister, was in the E. Village when the substation exploded on 14th Street. Sounded like it was pretty exciting and scary.  He was outside and, like many others, saw the sky light up blue before all the power went out. 

 I wanted to write a blog at some point sort of encompassing my entire experience with the storm and its aftermath and some reflections.  But it's hard to really know where to start and stop.  For example, the news coverage angle never really stops.  We went straight into election coverage and now there's a Nor'easter slamming the city as if Sandy wasn't enough...it's actually snowing outside right now.  WTF?

Two realizations have come from this experience.  One has to do with the over-arching dilemma of how inefficient and sometimes one-sided news coverage can be and even if it is thorough on some news outlets, how easy it is to assume the one bit of coverage you happen to watch is the entire picture.  For example, I've heard so many sound bites from angry Rockaway Beach residents (whom we've given a chance to shout at the camera and make their voice heard regarding the inefficiency or non-existence of the clean up effort) and, forgetting for a moment that they probably don't have electricity to watch TV coverage of the storm cleanup, it makes you think that, wow, the government is really dropping the ball here, or why hasn't their been any relief out there?  But, stay on the channel for a while, and you'll hear all sorts of reports about how quick and efficient the government response has been to the worst hit areas or how ordinary people are helping out in so many ways.  I saw a story that moved me quite a bit, the local Sikh community in Staten Island were some of the first people (in fact, maybe the first), to go out and serve food to people who were without power and whose homes were destroyed.  The Southern Baptists even came up to serve food to displaced residents in Staten Island.  So, there are amazing things happening and those sensationalized sound bites are merely one side of a story.

I also heard that the gas lines were crazy.  One man was arrested for brandishing a gun at a man who complained when he jumped the line.  But every interview our reporters have fielded from the lines, people seem to understand why the lines are there, why this is happening and they are not angry.  One man said, "so many others have it so bad, so what is it to me to have to wait in line for a few hours?"

It's interesting how people can take one bit of information and run with it without consideration as to whether that bit of information is truth, only a tiny piece of the reality, or a complete falsehood. This is a can of worms indeed so I won't go so far into it.  Suffice it to say that there are far more than even two sides to every story.  While some things as far as cleanup and relief have been inefficient and some bad things have happened post Sandy, I personally choose not to firestorm the government agencies and whomever else because I have had a chance to see several interviews with the local officials over the past few days and I see how big and multifaceted this clean up effort is.  Getting the subways back online in a timely manner itself is a massive feat of engineering and quite frankly, I think the MTA officials are genius for having the presence of mind to shut down the subway to safeguard the equipment.  We are up and running at almost full status as of just about a week later and I'm probably never going to be so quick to complain about a late train for at least a couple of months now that I've been listening to what goes in to keeping the system running 24/7 like it does...the inconvenience of being without it for a few days notwithstanding.  
I acknowledge however that I have a pretty comfortable spot to survey this all from and perhaps I would feel differently if my home had been swept away and I was dealing with a range of emotions over the loss and needed somewhere to direct that.  I get it.  But that's just my perspective and I'm aware that it can't be easy to lose so much.  At least three of my co workers had their homes flooded and are dealing with cleaning that up and salvaging what they can.   It's heart wrenching. 

The other realization ties pretty closely in and it has to do with my own reaction to the storm's effects on this community I live in.  I'll preface this by saying that I've seen this in rooms full of people watching news coverage of past storm cleanup efforts a dozen times before over the years.  Every time this argument comes up and I have to pause when I hear it.  Those people in the evacuation zones who are stranded without power, with destroyed homes, what are they even doing there?  They should have evacuated, it's their own fault, how can they expect government help, yadda yadda blah blah blah.   It's almost cliche at this point.   But, my response to that after being this close to a situation like this is this, and it comes straight from Buddhism: we should be compassionate toward people without judgement.  Especially since some of those people either couldn't evacuate because they are elderly, or maybe they weren't even in an evacuation zone but just happened to be affected or couldn't get out once the storm got bad and they closed the bridges so they hunkered down.  The point is, you don't know someone's situation and you can't presume to condemn them and say they are undeserving or they just want a handout.  If someone's drowning, you don't ask what they're doing in the water.  You jump in and try to save them as best as you can.  Ask questions later.  This is what I've seen so many in this city doing over the course of the last week and it's amazingly uplifting.  We as a society should be more like this all the time.  That's a slice of Ana's sermon on Sunday at the UU church.  Kind of this call to not stop at donating clothes and canned goods.  And I agree and I also think it should extend to more than just storm relief.  I'll leave it at that for now though.  I don't much care for proselytizing or grand-standing.  I just feel like we as humans are at our best when we are compassionate toward each other rather than when we are being isolationist or selfish. 

With that, I'm going to photograph this insanity outside my window and get back to troubleshooting my audio/MIDI equipment problems.  And also share with you a wonderful piece of news that I got last night as I was starting my shift at work:  I just booked another voice over gig!  My 9th paid gig in almost as many months and the first one I'll be going into Manhattan to record at a studio.  It's an internet ad for a young adult novel.  I'll let you know how that goes.  The session is Monday at noon.  Talk soon!

1 comment:

  1. Way to go Tim, break a leg with the gig.
    I love the comment.." If someone's drowning, you don't ask what they're doing in the water."
    Thanks for sharing your experience and stay safe.