Slowly the enormity of the devastation and disruption is dawning on many of us. Every hour seems to bring new images and stories of the force of Sandy and her aftermath.
I say “slowly dawning on us” because some of us at first survived with little or no problem.
The Oratory Church of Saint Boniface where I live in downtown Brooklyn, just across from Wall Street in lower Manhattan, was relatively unaffected. We did not lose power, and we had no flooding.
We did feel the force of the wind. We watched trees stripped of the last of their leaves, and some branches and awnings and debris blow past our windows in a mad and scary parade.
‘The full impact’
We woke thinking that the storm had passed without too much damage. But hour by hour, day by day, we see more and more the full impact.
Little food is now on the shelves in supermarkets, people are still walking about in a daze or trying to get around without public transport, and now we still have limited bus and subway service. What is available is extremely crowded.
The traffic is backed up for miles, seemingly everywhere, sirens and horns are blasting from morning to night. We live near approaches to the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, and they are jammed with traffic that barely seems to move.
Usually the view from our area of Brooklyn is of the island of Manhattan. It is at night lit up like a Christmas tree – a beautiful sight twinkling on the waters of the East River that divides us – but the whole lower half of the city is now eerily dark. No power, no water, no phones …. everyone there is fleeing uptown to eat, wash and recuperate.
‘Chaos and debris everywhere’
The parish secretary lives on the south shore of Long Island. She told of their harrowing night.
The water rose so quickly that her family retreated upstairs as their lower floor flooded with the surging tide. She said they just huddled together and prayed. They feared they were not going to survive.
In the morning they came down to see appliances upended, furniture floating about, food and clothing bobbing on ripples, and even fish left in the receding wake. Soon she said she felt lucky as all around the devastation was apparent.
This morning I walked down the street and saw mile after mile of buses trying to get people over the bridges into the city so they can go to work. All the tunnels into Manhattan from this side are flooded.
I am due to preach this weekend on Long Island, but cannot reach the local parish by any electronic means. Much of the east end of Long Island is without power, as are great sections of New Jersey, Connecticut and New York.
‘Good will and resilience’
Some 2 million people still have no power. Relatives and friends are telling us it is harder and harder to get by. It is particularly difficult for the young and the elderly.
But there are also signs of the extraordinary good will and resilience of many. One of the priests from my community, Father Michael, runs a homeless service program in the city. He got on his bicycle the morning after the storm and rode into the city to check in on people.
We, like many other places, have started collections of food and money to help Father Michael and many others like him.
The images from New Jersey and other coastal areas of New York and Connecticut are particularly heartbreaking as whole communities have lost everything.
Slowly but surely the city is getting back on its feet. Politicians have put aside their differences. The president, mayors, governors and the rank and file of essential services have shown great leadership and determination to get this right.
‘We know we will recover’
Some in the National Guard carried patients in Roosevelt Hospital down 18 floors to get them to other facilities. Courage, generosity and resolve are everywhere. A little reminiscent of the aftermath of 9/11.
Once again the people of the greater New York area are opening their hearts, helping one another, getting down to the task of getting back to life and getting on with business.
I think most of us fully realize that we have been fortunate. The refrain of people in front of floating cars, battered homes and fallen trees has been consistently optimistic and grateful. We know we will recover.
I am keeping in mind that for many in our world, these are all-too-common realities, and not exceptions. To be really poor means to have few options. In my mind that makes the work we all do for CFCA all the more vital and urgent.
Keep us in your prayers. We need them! It will be a long road to recovery. But recover I am sure we will.
NOTE: Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this massive storm. If you are a sponsor affected by Hurricane Sandy or interested in helping sponsors affected, we invite you to consider the CFCA Sponsorship Assistance Fund. The fund was created after Hurricane Katrina to help sponsors in times of crisis†continue their sponsorships.