Superstorm Sandy: How Soon We Forget

From Common Dreams:

With climate change, eventually more people will be living in blackout zones. How do we fix that when it’s disturbingly easy to forget all about them?

by Barbara Garson
Published on Sunday, November 25, 2012 by Common Dreams

Since Superstorm Sandy soaked the East Coast, there’s been a presidential election and a CIA sex scandal. So I can hardly blame you folks in California for forgetting that there are people like me who still have no heat or elevators in our buildings. I find it disturbingly easy to forget about such people myself as soon as I get a few blocks out of the blackout zone.

The former Sri Lankan ambassador to Cuba happened to be staying in our apartment when Sandy hit. My husband and I had arranged to stay uptown so that our old friend could enjoy a vacation in Lower Manhattan.

On the Monday Sandy was expected, Madame K — she’s got one of those five-syllable Sri Lankan names — phoned to say the computer was making a strange sound. Then pop. Neither phone, nor Skype, nor cell, nor email now connected us. So we drove down to rescue our guest, taking suitcases so we could also rescue the stuff in our freezer. When we opened our apartment door, we found the ambassador in bed: “I didn’t know where else to go once it got dark.”

K wondered why no one from the building had come around to check on her storm preparations and make sure that a visitor had up-to-date evacuation information, the way they would have in Cuba.

Over the years K and I have had our disagreements about Cuba. But at that point in Sandy, I’d have welcomed a Committee for the Defense of the Revolution to keep track of everyone.

The next day our building director held a tenants meeting. “This is the storm of the century,” he said, opening with the cliche of the century.

Even if Con Edison managed to get power into Lower Manhattan in four or five days, as estimated, he told us, the building wouldn’t dare turn on the electricity until the basement could be pumped completely dry and the salt wiped away. Multiple pumps were already working toward that end.

The water marks in the basement, he said, were over his head. Washing machines in the laundry room had floated up and now lay sprawled atop each other every which way. As far as heat, the boilers might not be salvageable and locating equipment vendors in a crisis would take time.

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