brucekluger.com

    USA Today, October 30, 2012

    Sandy pulls New Yorkers together, once again
    Why must it always take something like a hurricane, or a terrorist strike,
    to remind us of our solidarity?

    By Bruce Kluger


    As the east coast picks herself
    up from the fury of Hurricane
    Sandy, here in Manhattan we’re
    still assessing the damage.
    Subways remain flooded, half
    the island is without power and,
    tragically, the death toll stands
    at nine, but is expected to rise.

    And yet the City is infused with
    a sense of community. This is
    what New Yorkers do best.
    We survive.

    I recognized this feeling of solidarity as early as Monday afternoon, as Sandy
    barreled toward us, blowing 80 miles-per-hour winds and carrying a ton of rain. The
    scene outside my window was eerily placid, save the sound of a distant howl. It was
    literally the calm before the storm.

    I ran to the supermarket to stock up on milk. At the time, reports said we’d be dug in
    for a few days. If that was the case, milk was mandatory—for the kids’ cereal, and
    for my wife’s and my coffee. Then again, what if we had no power?

    I couldn’t help but notice the faces of my fellow New Yorkers as I passed them on
    the street. We shared quick glances and half-smiles, then shrugged at each other
    as if to say, “Who knows?” I was reminded of that awful day in September 2001,
    when Manhattan was under siege. We shared glances back then, too, as we ran to
    collect our children from school or check on loved ones. But on that day, there were
    no half-smiles on our faces. Just worry.

    Much is written about the peculiarity of New York Cityour bluer-than-blue politics,
    our white-collar professionals, our red-blooded crackpots. But since moving here in
    1978, I’ve grown to appreciate the camaraderie we share, especially when we’re
    coping with common angst.

    A month after I arrived here, all three of New York’s daily newspapers went on
    strike, leaving a town of news junkies, sports fans and coupon-clippers bereft.
    While I can’t recall how we managed this burden, I vividly remember walking to work
    the day after strike ended, and seeing a sidewalk vendor selling t-shirts bearing the
    slogan, “I Survived the Great Newspaper Strike of 1978.” That’s New York.

    As I scrolled through emails on Mondaymany from acquaintances across the
    country, checking on my family’s safetymy friend Denise, who lives up the street,
    left a message on my answering machine. “Hey, Bunker One, it’s Bunker Two,” she
    said with a laugh. “Just checking to see if you’re all locked down, too. Give us a call.
    Obviously, we’re home.”

    The next message was from my pal David, who was driving back from Connecticut,
    in a breakneck race with Sandy to see who could get here first.

    “I’m trying to make it in before the bridges close,” David said. “I can’t wait to turn on
    the news when I get home. I’m dying to find out if Mother Nature endorses Obama
    or Romney.”

    David’s comment made me smile. It also made me realize that, for the first time in
    months, the election was not dominating the media. Imagine that: no bombshells
    from the campaign trail, no recriminations from the candidates, no blistering attack
    ads. Instead, just a steady stream of storm updates and helpful reports on how best
    to take care of ourselvesand each other.

    Why must it always take something like a hurricaneor a news blackout, or a
    terrorist striketo remind us that we’re all in this together?

    The tide will eventually recede here in New Yorkit always doesand take with it
    the memory of Sandy’s wrath. I just wish this sense of unity could linger a little
    longer. It is the one thing the storm brought that’s worth saving.


    (Photo: Robert Deutsch, USAT)