As Superstorm Sandy approached and hit the east coast, I was in San Francisco, hoping things turned out okay, thinking of my friends and family in the region. And, as I think about it now, I realize that I assumed it would turn out okay. (A sign that I’ve recaptured some of my native New Orleanian spirit. The one that shrugs at hurricane season. Fist pump on that point.)
And then last night, I started looking at the pictures and reading the messages.
Not the ones I’d seen in the previous days… the ones of flooded parking garages… the ones of lights out across Manhattan… the ones of individual buildings falling apart. The ones that basically showed that normal commerce and transport was probably not happening, but had a certain shininess that suggested that the insurance company was already on the case.
But the pictures and messages of people living in areas that feel forgotten. Where Mother Nature has left a wide swath of destruction and it’s clear that no one has even yet figured out how to address it, much less start addressing it. The pictures that show entire households destroyed. The messages that indicate that people are losing hope and feeling less-than. They’re not worried about getting to work or having a hot shower. They’re worried about getting a roof over their heads and food in their bellies and explaining to their kids that life will be hard for a while.
Yesterday, I was of the opinion that the New York City Marathon should go on as planned. From living there, I remember the energy in the streets on marathon day, the feeling of connection for cheering on people you don’t know as they push themselves to their limits. I knew things were messed up and people were sad, but I was convinced that the marathon would help. For the same reason that within days of Hurricane Katrina, I was encouraging people to plan to come to New Orleans for the next Mardi Gras. For the same reason that I chose to move back here from Honolulu on that first Lundi Gras, and rejoiced in those parades, with a 3-month old MrMan strapped to my front. Just because we’re grieving doesn’t mean the celebrating should stop. In fact, it often means we need it even more. It’s a way to invest in hope and belief and resilience.
But, today, I realize that there’s a big difference: time. If the marathon were next month, or even next week, it would be a different situation. But, it’s right now. The same right now where people are looking for clothes, shelter, food, heat, sanity, and loved ones. If, right now, the planners could look at the marathon route and see that the race could continue with no modifications and no extra logistic concerns, I think I’d still err on the side of running in the face of devastation. The marathon brings energy and money and is a way of linking all five boroughs. But for it to happen this weekend, there will be some changes, like the logistics of getting all the runners to Staten Island, which was so hard hit. And to me, that’s an indication that maybe this weekend is not the time for such an event.