Today is the first morning I’ve had the time, the electrical power and the energy to write a post. It’s with some horror that I read my last post. Who knew Sandy would cause so much devastation and damage? Evidently pretty much everyone, well except us, it turns out… I don’t think I need to say a whole lot more here, other than we were lucky and are fine. We had a huge stock of batteries, thanks to a tendency to overstock supplies and having children with battery operated devices, I even found a solar-powered radio/flashlight my brother had sent me a few years ago after the last blackout and a drawer full of candles and flashlights. My mother periodically called with updates and my brother sent text messages with the latest news.
A good friend who lives above 26th Street (and therefore had power) was kind enough to open her home to many of us without. It took hours to power up our devices, but at least we weren’t standing in line at one of the many delis and stores north of 25th Street who had brought out power cords allowing as many people as possible to power up.
All is dark, including the traffic lights south of 25th Street
Monday morning as we took the children west to survey the damage in our now dark world, we attempted to cross 8th Avenue, but had to wait as cars raced past taking advantage of the power outage and dark traffic lights, never breaking despite the fact we were with two children. For those cars on the cross streets waiting, hoping someone would slow down enough to let them through, it was a lesson in patience and a stark reminder of how badly people can behave given the opportunity.
One of many buildings in Chelsea near the West Side Highway
Our building still has water, it’s only now running out, other buildings are not as fortunate. We also were fortunate enough to have a gas stove, which means we are able to heat water and even made pancakes for Emma one morning. By the third day, Emma’s stress level had become noticeably worse. (As had mine.) Perseveration, stimming and echolaic speech had all worsened. I started looking into hotel rooms for us already on Monday while waiting for our phones to power up at my friend’s home, but couldn’t believe when I saw a “Budget Hotel” in midtown charging over twelve hundred dollars per night for a room. I probably could have booked something had I thought to (and most hotels were not price gouging), but by Tuesday there were almost no rooms left and by the time we seriously began looking on Wednesday we found only one hotel with a room available, which we booked, only to learn that it had been evacuated because of the crane in Midtown that forced a number of blocks to shut down.
Richard took matters into his own hands and called my cousins who welcomed us into their beautiful home uptown. We are grateful to have somewhere to go and relatives who were willing to take us in, people who were kind enough to open their doors and had spare bedrooms to accommodate us. Meanwhile Nic went to his friend’s house in Brooklyn, where he is playing one endless marathon video game of who knows what with his friend. We miss him, but are relieved to know he’s being taken care of and is happy.
I wrote the following and posted it on my Facebook page last night: “It’s hard to capture a visual of A Tale of Two Cities: Downtown without power, Uptown life continues. North of 26th Street where there is power, lines of people wait to use an electrical plug to power up their cell phone, below 26th Street there is no power, many buildings are without water now, others will be without water soon. Guys are hawking C & D batteries on the street corners, one guy has a sign saying, “We sell CANDLES” Large flashlights are a hot commodity. And yet… just a few blocks north people are watching the news of devastation on their flat screen TVs. Two worlds divided by electrical haves and have nots.”
To be without electrical power is to literally be without power. Those who are above 25th Street, a purely arbitrary division are able to listen to the news or not, make phone calls, take showers, fix nice meals for their families, choose to open their homes, help people if they decide to, but those south of 25th do not have these choices. It is surreal. Those without power who had the means and the wherewithal to book hotel rooms on Monday did so. The decision to continue with the New York City marathon this Sunday was a stark example of the massive disconnect that has occurred in this city. That officials were blithely holding press conferences defending this decision while people are trying desperately to locate family members they haven’t heard from who live in the southern parts of the city is just one more example of how surreal things have gotten here in New York City.
*I am one of the people who feels it is insulting to carry on with the marathon, exacerbating the traffic jams, reducing the numbers of available hotel rooms, a symbolic thumbing of their noses at all those who have not showered, had something hot to drink or eat, are without heat, water, light or have been evacuated. I see the people running along the streets, weaving in and out of the traffic grid lock and I can only assume, as they head south, that they will eventually head back north to a hot shower. Yet another example of the difference a little electricity makes.
*This post was written before we lost wi-fi this morning and at the time the marathon had not been canceled.