We all have memories of life-changing moments in history. Remember when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon? When the planes hit the Twin Towers? In December, 1980 a bunch of us came to New York City. It was two days after the shooting death of John Lennon. I remember it well. Now, after Sandy’s onslaught, I’m reminded not only of how well this city handles adversity, but how we confront the many surprises in life.
Here’s how I saw it from the 11th floor:
Saturday, October 27
New York awaits her arrival. They’ve seen her coming for the past week. New Yorkers ask me, “You ready for the storm?”
Sunday, October 28
2pm: I head out for water, wine and food for dinner. The neighborhood deli is cleared out. I nab the last piece of beef for a stew I hope will feed us for a few days. The line-up winds around the store. A 15-minute wait. Hardware stores run out of flashlights, home stores of candles. The watchful eyes of meteorologists ply the weathermen with warnings, calling all those in Sandy’s projected path to prepare for the worst. Street merchants pack up, sell their fruit and veg for a song.
5pm: We remove most things from the deck, and leave the rest to ride it out. 80 mph hour winds are predicted at ground level, 100 mph up here. What does that sound like, I wonder?
7pm: The New York transit system closes down, as do schools and the NYSE; the first time since 9-11. Stay home, stay safe, urges Mayor Bloomberg.
8pm: Skies are ominously quiet, the air deceivingly warm and still. Hard to believe there’s a hurricane a’comin’. My tummy knots up.
Monday, October 29
3am: Glass breaks, sirens scream, sheet metal goes flying somewhere too close. I consider moving my bed away from the window.
10am: A mother screams at her child to come inside. Streets still full of people gathering supplies, just in case.
3pm: The storm is expected to reach land in a few hours. 9pm they say. Items on the building’s roof deck have been secured. The wind intensifies in furious bursts. It’s a wind I’ve never known, or felt before.
6pm: She’s coming closer. I hear her. I feel her. Another crash of metal below. I move my bed into the hall, well away from windows and possible flying objects. The Live news stream reveals the devastation. Sirens and more sirens. The wind makes conversation difficult. Over and over we stop and listen. We drink wine and wait for the stew to cook. Strangely, we still have power and we sleep.
Tuesday, October 30
The rain subsides and we head out for a walk. Downed trees block roads, tree limbs hang precariously over sidewalks, dislocated traffic signs out of commission. Yellow tape is everywhere warning ‘Stay Out’, but this is New York and nobody listens. A man shouts at his kid for shouting. I wished he hadn’t.
This is the Upper East Side and damage is minimal. Lower Manhattan has taken a beating. They have no power; the tunnels and subways are flooded. So too is the World Trade Centre construction site. The NYSE is closed for a second day. NYU is closed. Schools are closed. The subway is closed. The few stores open for business enjoy long line–ups and plenty of chatter. ‘Hunter’ wellies are everywhere (all the fashion in New York).
Wednesday, October 31
So many here have lost so much. As Sandy’s full impact becomes clear over the hours, days and weeks ahead, today’s words from Seth Godin remind us this is the only time we have:
In the face of billions of dollars of destruction, of the loss of life, of families disrupted, it’s easy to wonder what we were so hung up on just a few days ago. There’s never been a better opportunity to step up and make an impact, while we’ve got the chance… Maybe even today.
How about you?
What are you putting off until the time is right?