After the Storm

Today is Halloween, and while much of the five boroughs still grapples with power outages and isolation from the shutdown subways, the children in my neighborhood prepare to Trick or Treat. It is an odd sensation, being in a city hit so hard by the storm, and yet going about our day as if that disaster didn’t just happen. Our neighborhood, which sits at the top of a steep hill in Brooklyn, has emerged almost completely unscathed by the storm. In fact, out of respect for the areas hit hard I will not even post pics. We never lost power, we never lost water. Our lights flickered, our microwave beeped, and the wind howled, but the storm passed overhead and left us to ourselves.

I find myself feeling reflective in the wake of that, and feeling a different kind of isolation all-together. When a disaster happens so close to you that you can hear it, but yet you feel none of it, what does that mean? There are grand ideas of lending a hand, but without transportation that seems impossible. I have heard stories trickle in of other neighborhoods around the five boroughs banding together to charge cell phones and make calls to loved ones outside the city. I have heard about darkness that prevailed over the streets of Manhattan broken only by the whirring lights of the police sirens.

Then there was a devastating fire that stole homes and lives in Queens. All of this startles me, shakes me, and makes me bashful of my thankfulness for my own safety. I realized this morning — walking in the stream of sunlight breaking clouds and letting a chilling blue sky through — that life will go on in spite of our need to process. Life goes on when death occurs. Life goes on when trauma is felt. New York City can shed the skin of this disaster, and will, because that is the New York way. That is the human way.

And, even in the midst of humility, I can say I am thankful that the storm didn’t destroy everything. I am thankful to take my son Trick or Treating. I am thankful to be able to get coffee with my friends at a new neighborhood cafe. I ache for those displaced by the storm, and those who lost homes, whose cars marinate in storm water in the underground parking garages of Lower Manhattan, and who still haven’t gotten in touch with family. This is the way I can process my own storm, and find my own recovery.

New York City Braces

When we moved to New York City, I don’t remember expecting to deal with two hurricanes, an earthquake, and tornados in the span of fifteen months. Under the threat of Sandy, we have all begun to prep for war, it would seem. We gather our ammunition against the storm (candles, flashlights, lanterns); we gather our sustenance (canned, food, bread, water); we fill our tubs and pots for clean bathing water should the lines be shut off.

We prepare because it is the only thing we can possibly do when faced with a storm so much larger and so much wilder than we are. When a storm rages at sea, and the sea consumes land for it’s supper. We are forced to watch and wonder and scramble for safety because that gives our fear purpose. It is what we must do. As a believer, I do something else though. I pray. I petition the one who sees all storms as small and manageable that He would remember my family in the midst of it.

I do not hide behind the belief, I allow it to support me as I stack my cans of food and set out my candles to light. I remember that the earth rages with dangers, and natural disasters are no more than that. They are natural to a world weakened by its many years. They are something we cannot escape, but we have to face. Whether that means we heed the warnings of our city officials and evacuate, or we hunker down in our home with more food than we need and enough batteries to last out a zombie apocalypse. (Though should Sandy bring flesh-eaters to the shores of Brooklyn, I fear I am ill-prepared to fight them.)

Today, as the winds began to pick up, and the windows were splattered with the spit of rain, I sat in a tent in our playroom with three kids. I made smores and told fables and pretended the storm was a backdrop for fantasy. The storm was an excuse to stay still, to imagine. Life goes on in the midst of a storm, and that is how you triumph. You move wisely. If the tumult tosses you, you regain your footing. You allow the fear and the certainty of your mortality to give you strength. And then you snack, you watch movies while the electricity is still on, you make sure all your electronics are charged, and you wait for the storm to pass. You can try to fight it, or ignore it, but in a storm, the best thing to do is just to weather it.

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