This was in answer to a question from Azam, the youngest of my two brothers. He’s a transplanted New Yorker who lives in Tacoma, Washington. About three months after the storm, we were talking on the phone, and after ragging each other about our football teams (he’s Jets and I’m Giants!), the conversation went to the latest news about his hometown city.
“Are they still talking about Sandy in the news? We don’t hear anything about the storm over here. What’s the situation over there?”
And my reply:
“Are they still talking about Sandy?! When are they not talking about Sandy! Not a day goes by when we don’t talk about Sandy.”
“Well, what are they talking about?”
“What are they not talking about? You really wanna know what they’re talking about? Let me count the ways…”
I then gave my brother an exhaustive rundown of all the issues up until then. How Wall Street was still a “city of generators,” as my colleague Andrea described it on her Facebook page. That the MTA had taken train cars out to the Rockaways on flatbed trucks in order to restore temporary service across the peninsula through the free H shuttle train; but then we had to take a shuttle bus from Mott Avenue to the Howard Beach Station to connect to the mainland, and travel into Manhattan.. Anyone in the Rockaways can tell you, that ride was murder. That Brooklyn Battery tunnel was still out of service, as well as the PATH train. And the South Ferry station for the 1 train that was totally flooded out; the MTA had no idea when it would be back in service, but they would have to re-commission the old South Ferry terminal until the repairs are complete. (Projected time to complete the repairs: three years.)
That the homeowners in the most devastated sections of New York and New Jersey were faced with bureaucratic delays, the looming prospect of higher flood insurance premiums, and the prosed change to the flood maps where they would be forced to raise their homes. The controversy over the running of the New York City marathon, and how it was eventually cancelled. The stores and hospitals that were still closed, like Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn and NYU Langone in the Kips Bay section of Manhattan. The landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty, forced to close because of storm damage, and when (or if) they will re-open. Colleagues at city agencies who were relocated to different offices because their locations in Lower Manhattan got flooded out.
We talked again over the summer. He asked the same question, I gave the same answer. Not day goes by when we don’t talk about Sandy. Not even the tragic shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School caused a stop in the stories about Sandy. The only day when there was no talk about Sandy was the day of the Boston Marathon bombing.
A couple of weeks ago I was sorting through papers, and found a handwritten entry of my journal from Halloween of 2012, just two days after the storm had torn through town (Jrnl 2012 Sandy02 Handwrite). Normally, I type my journal into a computer or another electronic device. But the battery on my laptop was long dead, and I had to conserve power on my smartphone and tablet, since we had no power in the Rockaways, and no idea when the electricity would be restored.
I am still catching up on video footage from the storm. During the past week, the local news channels have been looked back on this one-year anniversary, airing pictures and video from the storm that I only heard described on WCBS Newsradio as I hunkered down in the dark of my apartment. One of the videos that I got to see was at Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. During the night of the storm, the WCBS news reporter described the scene:
“I’m here at Castle Clinton, and there’s a moat. The moat is thirteen feet high…and the moat is almost covered…and I gotta get outta here now, it’s not safe to stay here!”
That’s when I knew the storm was gonna be bad. I’ve attended more than my share of summer concerts at Castle Clinton, and knew exactly what the reporter was talking about. When I saw the video footage last week, my mouth fell out of my head.
I had the same reaction when I saw the story on 60 Minutes about the homes in Breezy Point. When I first heard it on the radio during the night of the storm, it was twenty homes that had caught fire. Then an hour later, the number had gone up to a hundred homes. That’s when I turned off the radio, pulled up the covers, and turned over in my bed. I couldn’t stand to hear any more about the storm. I’d have to wake up the next day to hear and see the aftermath. Today, many of the residents whose homes burned to the ground on the west end are still waiting to return home. As a reporter said on WPIX, Sandy “left a scar” on our area.
And there is not a day goes that by when we don’t talk about Sandy.