After a three day standoff with Hurricane Sandy, we are permitted to leave the breezy shores of Great Britain. New York City eagerly beckons and finally embraces us as we descend and come to rest in JFK, Jamaica Bay – a world away from the Caribbean.
We have arrived the day after Sandy came to town. The Big Apple is bruised but not eaten. The East Coast is battered but not beaten. New York skyline stands tall and proud, seemingly indomitable. Trash and filth sprawls across the streets.
Myriad yellow cabs defiantly speed on their way, relentlessly ferrying their cargo to every corner of the city. New York City Police stand silently by looking, gazing, and chewing gum like modern day gunslingers. New York has survived another attack.
On board the open topped tourist bus, the wintry air wraps around my face like a wraith as we travel ever slowly southward, to the tip of Manhattan. Sandy’s playground is a mess. Damage & destruction, pain and hurt are left in her wake. Grey skies look on dispassionately. A silent reminder of the storm that was.
Emergency responders scurry to clean up, even the army has come to town. We drive up Water Street, aptly and
cruelly named. Pipes emerge snakelike from the bowels of offices, restaurants, people’s homes disgorging their contents into the street, returning to the open water from where this surge emanated.
A tree is uprooted outside a building; symbolic of devastation and horrors past. Chinatown, normally fervent with energy and light is quiet and subdued in the darkness of a total power outage. Nearby though, Wall Street is mystically aflame with light, life, power and money. The wheels of commerce grind on relentlessly, taking no notice of mere human misery.
Café owners toss their ruined stock and furniture on the sidewalk. Buildings lie silent and dormant – mute testimony to the force of nature which has conquered and restrained this proud city, temporarily anyway. We take photos but then feel ashamed and quickly put our cameras away. We observe helplessly, there is nothing we can do.
Later, within the refuge of our 7th Avenue hotel I complain to the receptionist about the lack of hot water and heating. She is a kind, middle aged woman from Staten Island. I have a problem but they are the ones with real problem, for across the water Staten Islanders are crying for help.
Yet, this lady still has time for my minor inconvenience and speaks reassuring words in her own brand of New York accent.