In a New York State of Mind

The past week marks the second time that I have gone through what I consider to be a traumatic time since moving to New York: First, 9/11 and now, Hurricane Sandy. Both are traumatic not because of personal loss, but because they were each such powerful events that they changed certain beliefs and assumptions by which I had lived.

The greatest single positive learning that resulted from each had to do with my appreciation for the people of the greater New York area. I proudly admit that, as a native Chicagoan, I never expected to live in the New York area. My working assumption was that New Yorkers were brash and viewed their city as the center of the universe. Oh, by the way, those are probably true.

At the same time, here’s what I learned from both 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy: New Yorkers band together when the going gets tough. I witnessed it in the trying days after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. And I saw it again this week, when people who were dealing with terrible property losses took the time to check in on elderly and ill neighbors; when volunteers stepped up to deliver food to those that lacked it; and when folks opened the doors of their homes to others who had been forced to evacuate their homes. Even the simple things like people saying hello to strangers walking down the street and asking whether they were OK was pretty impressive for a city known for giving strangers odd looks when greeted by them normally.

All in all, I’m really impressed with the citizens of my adopted home town. And while I may not forgive them for the Miracle Mets that knocked my beloved Cubs out of contention in 1969, I stand and salute them for their strength and caring.



3 responses

  1. Joyce Schriebman | Reply

    Without diminishing the generosity and spirit of NYers, I surmise it’s a universal trait of humanity to pull together as one in times of need. Good will is the norm. Kindness the default. A crisis gives us the opportunity to remember and experience that. I’ve known Californians to rally, as well, in catastrophic times. We are one. We just need to keep it in mind more often.


  2. I guess I am living the mirror-image of your life. This marks the 2nd catastrophe that I missed since moving away from my native city. I have been struggling with the feelings of frustration at being far away. Just like after 9/11, the first few days were filled with frustration at not being able to reach loved ones and uncertainty at how they had weathered the storm. Once the the first stage of the crisis gave way to the long-term matters of cleaning up the mess, the feelings of frustration at being far away center more on being unable to help by rolling up my sleeves and cleaning out my dad’s fridge for him. I am heartened by the many stories of neighbors, friends and strangers helping one another during this time. But they also make me sad that the best I can do from my adopted city is send $. At the same, I recognize that if I still lived in NY, I might be equally helpless because I might be dealing w/ my own tsuris. Oh, and sorry about 1969.


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