I am writing this from a café in Park Slope – the first significant amount of time I’ve spent outside my tiny apartment in nearly two days – after Hurricane Sandy made its grand entrée into the lives of New Yorkers and millions of others across the eastern seaboard.
To call the experience surreal is a gross understatement. I sat cozy by my laptop last night, binging on network sitcoms online with a glass of mellow red wine at my side, stopping every twenty minutes to get an update on the horrors taking place outside of my insulated Brooklyn bubble.
First, just after dinner time, my friends in low-lying areas of the city started systematically losing power, courtesy of a cautious Con Ed. Their Facebook posts signing off for the foreseeable future (made possible by waning smartphone batteries) were evidence not just of the modern mode of real-time, social media communication, but of the imminent storm damage.
Then came the reports of the spectacular Con Ed transformer explosion. Pretty soon, downtown was in the dark, along with the east side below 34th Street. The NYU Langone Hospital, on 34th Street and First Avenue, had to emergency evacuate 200-some patients down nine flights of stairs after their basement generators flooded and their first floor was underwater.
Along the way, the unimaginable continued to transpire. Facades literally fell off buildings, exposing their innards to the elements. A crane dangled precariously at the side of a luxury condominium construction site. One Hoboken PATH station was steadily submerged as water gushed in through the sides of a compromised door, and yet across the city a small but tightly packed beach community unquenchably caught on fire, fanned by the relentless winds.
It is hard to reconcile these reports with the otherwise quotidian experience I have had these last few days. It is easy enough to pretend that this is just an uneventful, exceptionally long Brooklyn-bound weekend, but the reality is that we are essentially trapped where we are, unable to access the lifeblood that is the New York City subway system. It won’t be until buses start circulating again and people like me in relatively unscathed areas are able to see more of the damage personally that the effects of the storm will seem like more of a reality, something that happened to us rather than something that happened to them.