Sandy has come and gone, but the devastation described in such agonizing detail by AM radio reporters will not soon be forgotten.
With the storm surge came mass property destruction and loss of life. Mementoes and memories were swept away with the tide. An entire neighborhood in Queens was leveled by fire aided and abetted by the hurricane’s winds. Even the brash and boisterous Jersey Shore-esque Governor Chris Christie– for whom I have no love–teared up and was moved to embrace–ahem– President Obama.
For native New Yorkers like me, Sandy has been a grim and very personal reminder again that when we see images from “somewhere else” like Joplin, Missouri and Haiti, like New Orleans and Indonesia, that those are real people among those ruins, not just shock-fodder for the evening and morning news shows.
It has also been a reality check for those of us who might find the demands of daily life a little irritating.
People all along the east coast want some sense of normal life restored. Passengers, who just last week, hated the MTA, cheered this morning when subway and commuter rail service was partially restored.
No one in my neighborhood is complaining about the price of a gallon of gas anymore; we just want to find a station that has both power and gas.
Which brings me to my latest post. I am at a work table in my local public library, sharing space with seven strangers. There is running water here. It is warm here. There is power here for electronic devices: cell phones, laptops, e-readers. And to score this coveted spot, I had to be in line as library staff opened the doors. It seems that one bright spot in the ruins caused by Sandy has been this unintended public service ad for libraries and for librarians, who seemed thrilled to have so much business.
I use this library all the time. I know where the Vince Flynn books are and where to find the Miles Davis discs. A few of the librarians even recognize me by sight if not by name. There is a part of me wishes that as a “regular,” I might be a member of a library priority club, that I should get first shot the seat at the table that I always have had.
But the other part of me, the English teacher, speaks much louder and is delighted that so many have found their way back to the local library. We may be accessing e-mail or using the library to “work from home,” but we are surrounded by books. Among these shelves are classic works of authors I love: Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Hughes, Shakespeare and Steinbeck, T. S. Eliot, Jack London. Alright, I’ll stop now.
There are also the guides to do-it-yourself re-roofing and self-help for whatever ails ya. From my seat, I see the reference section, marked by the 22 print volumes of The World Book Encyclopedia. Behind me, I can hear the librarian issuing new library cards to new patrons, an abuela and her young grandson.
So while I mourn for the those lost in this tragic moment and I so desperately hope that humans will acknowledge both their limitations and their responsibilities, the future looks bright.