Standing By


It almost felt irreverent to pull the tape exes from our windows. The too-loud ripping sound of the packing tape being yanked from the glass felt like an over-announcement to the world below our windows: We escaped! Things toasty warm and normal. Nothing to see, here.

We survived Hurricane Sandy (and the rowdy storm party she threw) in astonishingly good form. In the park just across the street from us, full sized trees lay in splintered heaps, making the peaceful park look like a minefield.

Beneath us, the subway tunnels were flooded.

But the rest of Inwood and Washington Heights existed in a slightly eerie state of normalcy. We'd meet each other in the streets and on the sidewalks and comment on how lucky - how unbelievably lucky - we all are. We'd been spared the storm.

Below us, our Manhattan neighbors south of Harlem suffered. No power. Flooded streets. Thousands displaced and paying $13 for a pint of milk (we swung by Newspaper Chips for our usual $3.00 gallon post-storm).

We joined our neighbors in a frantic desire to help. Yes! Use our showers! Plug in your phones in my wall, there, while I make you a sandwich. Let your children run through our church building's cultural hall while you take a desperately needed mental break.

We tried to sign up to help clear the park - registry closed.
We went by the high school being used as a shelter to offer our services - enough volunteers for now (plus, we don't allow children).

The cry for help has been answered to capacity, it seems. This is a great blessing - I am proud of my neighborhood for rising to the occasion. These places don't need our help because so many others have stepped up. Well done, WaHi!

But my heart hurts. I feel a connection to this community, now. I feel like I am a part of this place. This is my neighborhood. I feel helpless, and I want to DO something.

Tonight we had friends over for dinner with the missionaries. We had a big, warm meal. We had dessert. We laughed about things kids say, mission stories, strange foods we've tried - and I couldn't help but feel a pang of guilt. We were enjoying ourselves in wonderful company while so many families weren't sure when their next meal was - or if they'd get a shower this week.

They should have a separate word for that feeling - when your day feels too normal compared to the suffering of so many so close.

I know our time will come. The damage is still being assessed. There are parts of New York that are still cut off. Things have to happen, first, before the real work begins. A week or two, they're saying. They hope the generous spirit of the Northern Manhattan Dwellers will not give out - that we'll still be standing by in a few weeks when we are able to look the full problem in it's big ugly eye.

And we are. We will be.

Standing by.

(For some pretty telling photographs gathered from various news sources of the calamities caused by Sandy to New York, please swing by my friend Sara's blog.)