So let’s talk about the weather.
All morning, I’ve been watching. We can’t do much else. We could give blood, we could make some kind of donation somewhere. But it’s there, back east, and we’re here, safe and protected. Hoping, praying.
I’ve tried to keep up with friends and family. Facebook’s great for that, though of course, a lot of folks in New York don’t have electricity, let alone internet service. I did hear from my niece, Marilyn. She’s there, in New York. She’s a hurricane pro, actually. She survived one a few years ago, in a sailboat in mid-Atlantic. True story; she was sailing from New York to France, just her and a friend, and they ran into a hurricane. She survived it, though the boat did not, but by pure happenstance; she was rescued by a boat of Portuguese fisherman. After that, hunkering down in her apartment probably seems comparatively safe.
You just don’t think of New York City getting clobbered by a hurricane. Miami, yes. New Orleans, maybe Jacksonville or Charlotte. But New York? But Sandy is a rule-breaker.
Stu Ostro of The Weather Channel (and boy have those guys been heroes here) said this:
“History is being written as an extreme weather event continues to unfold, one which will occupy a place in the annals of weather history as one of the most extraordinary to have affected the United States. . . . PEOPLE IN THE PATH OF THIS STORM NEED TO HEED THE THREAT IT POSES WITH UTMOST URGENCY. (Emphasis his) A meteorologically mind-boggling combination of ingredients is coming together . . . .This is an extraordinary situation, and I am not prone to hyperbole.’
Ostro then described some of those ‘mind-boggling ingredients:
One of the largest expanses of tropical storm force winds on record with a tropical or subtropical cyclone in the Atlantic or for that matter anywhere else in the world; a track of the center making a sharp left turn in direction of movement toward New Jersey in a way that is unprecedented in the historical database, as it gets blocked from moving out to sea by a pattern that includes an exceptionally strong ridge of high pressure aloft near Greenland; a ‘warm-core’ tropical cyclone embedded within a larger, nor’easter-like circulation; and eventually tropical moisture and arctic air combining to produce heavy snow in interior high elevations.
Well, we’ve seen it. Flooded streets, damaged homes, destruction. The crane leaning over 57th street. The mid-town explosion of the Con Ed power plant. NYU Hospital had to close, and rescue workers had to help patients down several flights of stairs, including infants-in-arms from their neo-natal intensive care unit. Fires, electric lines down. The subway system is seriously damaged; we see images of platforms overlooking what looks like an underground river. I keep thinking of essential services that must have been disrupted: Meals on Wheels, ambulances, dialysis. My daughter kept noticing the lights; we’re not used to seeing night-time photos of New York with no lights showing.
David Letterman taped in front of no audience. So did Jimmy Kimmel. Other shows taping in New York went black, as did the theatre district. The stock exchange has been closed for two days. I found myself remembering 9/11, which Letterman handled so perfectly. He was equally terrific last night; found just the right balance between comedy and compassion.
Other heroes: Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey–and strong Romney supporter–who set partisanship aside and worked with the President to get help into his state. Likewise Mayor Bloomberg in New York, Governor Cuomo in New York. The Red Cross. FEMA. The Coast Guard. Firefighters, cops, EMTs, doctors and nurses, hospitals and clinics.
Of course, there are always villains too. Natural disasters bring out both the best and worst in people, and The Donald lives in New York. Donald Trump’s Twitter feed has brought new meaning to the phrase ‘sociopathic self-absorbtion.’ Twitter trolls, right and left, have joined him, reminding us again what the first four letters of Twitter are. But I’m not sure anyone can top this fine Christian: John McTernan of Defend and Proclaim the Faith ministries in Pennsylvania, who insisted that Sandy is God’s punishment for gay rights and marriage equality.
There are two natural responses to natural disasters. One is to try to make theological sense of it, fit it into our pre-existing dogmas. Another is to pick up a shovel or a bucket and pitch in. Here’s a link to the American Red Cross. Help however you can.