Sunday, November 4, 2012

Slow Recovery

Morning commute, post Sandy

New York City is almost back to normal, with lights mostly restored and 80 percent of the subways running. But the schedule is less robust, and people are packed in body to body, determined to get where they're going. Outside the city, in Staten Island, the Rockaways, and parts of New Jersey, it's another story. My aunt and cousins in New Jersey are in a world of hurt, no lights, no heat, no food, little gas in their car, and my 82-year-old aunt is recovering from a nasty case of shingles.

She has all her children and grandchildren around her, so that is good, but on the phone this morning, they sounded desperate. My cousins waited six hours in line for gas yesterday, then found some firewood on their way home, which they packed into every inch of their car. The seven of them are now sleeping huddled around the fireplace, the only source of warmth. I asked them why didn't they come and stay with us in New York. Aunt Winnie has space, my mom has space, and so do we. My cousin said, "How would we get to you? The roads are impassable with live wires and downed trees. The bridges are closed. And we have to conserve the gas we have. Besides, we can't afford to leave the house and allow the water pipes to freeze and burst because that would be another problem we can't afford to fix."

They couldn't take their mom to the hospital because it's overrun, and they couldn't refill her prescription because the pharmacy was closed. They had to fax it to a pharmacy in another state and have it delivered. They had to go to a hotel to fax it. I felt so helpless. All I could do was text my cousin information about FEMA and wire money. And they are the lucky ones. Their house was not destroyed. No trees fell on their car. The have family members who will send money, and bring them to a warm lit place if they choose. If they can hold out for another ten days, power will probably be restored and life will be back to normal. Not so for hundreds of thousands more.

I can tell you, for people in the situation my New Jersey family is in, voting is not a consideration. They are Obama supporters, but they will probably not venture out to find a makeshift polling place this Tuesday. Their considerations right now are far more immediate and basic. How do I know? Because even though I wondered whether they would be able to vote, I knew in the same thought that it would be unforgivably stupid and crass to ask the question.


  1. Thank you for this post. It's the same on Long Island too and there are still at least a million without power and it's getting cold now.

    But my mother says she wants to vote, has to vote. I think it's one way of showing you have control.

    This election scares me. B/c of the storm, I'm afraid that no matter who wins, there will be a backlash.

  2. i have a large number of family in staten island and new jersey. some are displaced. only you know if it's crass to send this link to your family in new jersey. i sent it to mine and i know they wanted the information - but i know them and i knew they would.

  3. Thank you for this post. Here in the west coast of Canada I am in my warm and (mostly) dry world. We all need to be aware of what is going on.

    I had not considered the election. Is it suspected that it could change the outcome? What a horrible reality that could be!

  4. Oh, I understand your concerns. It's awful.

    At the same time, I think the elections are critically important. Do we want a president who will gut FEMA and all social services? Imagine this storm's aftermath with federal response.

  5. Thankful that trouble doesn't last always.

  6. I know. I know what they're going through except with the cold. We don't have cold with our hurricanes. Oh god. Bless them. It's SO fucking hard.
    I love you so much for your last paragraph. I understand completely. I think they should postpone the election or something. Something. It can't be fair that so many people will not be able to vote.

  7. This sounds so awful Angella... my heart goes out to them. And to you for the frustration you must feel at not being able to do as much as you'd like to help.

    I hate to think of all the people who won't be able to vote, through no fault of their own. Ms Moon is right... some sort of provision SHOULD be made for them... probably won't happen though.

  8. What a situation. My friends in Middlesex County just got their power back yesterday, so it is coming on in various parts of NJ. I hope your family members can vote -- though fortunately, storm or no, it's pretty inconceivable that New Jersey would go red!