This isn’t supposed to happen. It’s just weather, and you, jaded New Yorker, think of weather as an opportunity for picture taking, and not much else. You laugh at Mayor Bloomberg’s attempts to speak Spanish, joke about how how with some water & a flashlight, you’re ready for anything. You remember Irene, last year, and how nothing happened, and you expect more of the same. Maybe you’ll mourn the loss of the subway for a night, but you figure the next day, after the storm, you’ll get on with your life and make jokes about it, just as you do with anyone else.
You don’t expect this, though. You don’t expect — while you still have power — to see that photo of water pouring into the PATH station in Hoboken like in the movie Titanic when water starts to rush in through the cabin doors. You don’t expect to hear about babies being evacuated down nine flights of stairs because NYU Langone’s backup generator failed. You don’t expect to see the South Ferry station flooded to the ceiling, you don’t expect that the next day, when you can’t get in touch with your family right away because they have no power, to feel that sense of unease you can’t describe, and you certainly don’t expect to see the boardwalks in Seaside Heights and Atlantic City obliterated. It’s just weather, you think. It’s just some wind and rain. How can it do this? How can it take out the subway, flood lower Manhattan, destroy those iconic memories of so many of our vacations?
You’re used to being the one that sends money and/or blood to the Red Cross to help out others in natural disasters; you’re not used to needing those services yourself. Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Katrina — these you remember seeing on tv, remember being unable to comprehend the damage. You never expect the damage to come home. You can’t remember the last time you went to sleep just hoping, praying that everyone and everything would be okay when you woke up in the morning…and you’re unfamiliar with that feeling of sickness when you find out that it’s not.
You know that eventually all the downed trees will be removed, the power lines restored, that once again you’ll have a use for your Metrocard and that someday you’ll go down the Shore again for a weekend (or more) over the summer, but it will take time, and you know that it won’t be the same. In some respects it feels wrong to think about the future when so many are just trying to get through the present, but you can’t help it.
One storm isn’t supposed to do this. You’re supposed to be greeting Trick-or-Treaters today or watching the Halloween parade. You’re supposed to be either agonizing over who to vote for next week or making the final push for your chosen candidate. You’re supposed to be taking photos of the gorgeous fall colors while sipping your pumpkin ale and getting excited for that opening night Knicks-Nets matchup. You’re not supposed to be numb with shock, you’re not supposed to want to cry. It’s just weather. This isn’t supposed to happen.