Hurricane Sandy’s Aftermath: NYC 10/29-11/2–Is it Optimism? or Denial? or Stark Reality that Motivates Us?

One thing is certain: It’s tough for older people
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     10/29/2012 One–if not the first–of Sandy’s TV-announced victims: a crane, atop the roof of this building with scaffold at 57th and 6th, was an everyday sight–until the strong winds preceding Sandy’s heavy rains leave the crane dangling over the south side (no longer visible from the north). Street below still cordoned off.

     10/29-30 Sandy rains, blows, and storms her way through the New York-New Jersey area. Public transportation is suspended. I’m guessing that everyone fortunate enough to have electricity is glued to TV. We watch the waters rise at the shorelines and wind gusts intensify. Mayor Bloomberg and other officials stress (and in some areas mandate) evacuating residents from at-risk land for their safety and to avoid jeopardizing would-be rescuers called in to save the nonevacuees.
Young, old, elderly, and zoo animals
     With several hospitals in lower Manhattan flooded and without electricity, we watch old, young, sick being moved to safe medical facilities by medical personnel.
     Amid pictures of younger people wading through thigh-high waters, ruined homes, scattered belongings, heavy objects upended and strewn everywhere, another sobering scene: an elderly man, who had been trapped alone in his flooded home, now strapped to equipment that facilitated his being evacuated by rescuers to “higher ground.” Was he unaware? without working portable radio, cell phone or TV? physically unable to leave? Or could he just not bear to leave his home? The TV anchor reports a neighbor phoned to get him help. Evidently no family came to his aid. Looking out for our own aging family members isn’t enough, it seems. It clearly wouldn’t have been for this man.
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     On the other hand, at the Central Park Zoo on the 30th, when the storm has calmed, the animals seem well cared-for and oblivious to the drama humans are experiencing.  While Central Park is closed to all humans, a llama and some sheep calmly go about their routine, as do the rest of the animals we can see from the sidewalk above. Wet leaves cover the ground and sidewalk. No older people in evidence. Smart. They could easily slip on the leaves.
     Meanwhile no electricity and/or few employees=many CLOSED businesses. When they finally begin to function, business hours are often random. Grocery stores display empty shelves. A TV segment featured Citymeals-on-Wheels, which normally distributes meals to over 16,000 NYC area homebound seniors annually. There are thousands of new requests, according to the segment, for seniors who may not have working cell phones now and may not hear–or don’t answer–the volunteer’s ringing the doorbell.
     10/31-11/1 Public transportation is free, running, but “ify.” Long waits; packed busses. No place for the elderly who normally avail themselves of public transportation. Tales of people from nearby Queens, who were lucky enough to board Manhattan-bound buses this morning, reported it took an hour to travel a few blocks due to heavy traffic and car checks for the newly-required number of passengers. Many loyal employees got off buses and walked–over the bridge–to their NYC  jobs. Stores closed early so employees could get home at a reasonable hour. Some stores may never reopen.
     11/2: A brisk wind, makes for a cold day. Too cold for elderly people to be outdoors. Unhealthy indoors if they’re without electricity. On the other hand, at 8:30 am the Apple flagship store plaza on 5th Avenue is filled with crowds of younger people in orderly cordoned-off lines. They wait–hoping to recharge their Macs and/or iPhone’s batteries or try out the new iPads. The store usually open 24/7, didn’t open until 10.
     With limited gas supplies, transportation of people, goods, and services impacts life,
Today the commuter trains are running.  Not all are on a regular schedule. The busses and  subways–not all of which are running–didn’t charge fares until Friday at midnight.
Conversation on a bus ride Friday night:
  • one woman’s home in the Rockaways–destroyed, she hasn’t been back yet.
  • The guy seated next to her has a home where “water–at least 3 feet deep–went through his front door and out the back door.” He has a car and can check his heavily water-damaged home. He said police checked driver’s licenses’ address to make certain only home owners entered his neighborhood.
  • He thought canceling the NYC Marathon (scheduled for this weekend) was good. Said people on Staten Island “would be throwing stones.” Many thought resources in still-affected boroughs should be used for urgent clean-up and reparation etc., not people running through their streets.

We’re always prioritizing, I think. Even in disasters. Many are optimistic–thinking the worst won’t happen or they can handle it. They remain, entrenched. And denial can take place without one’s even knowing it. People in denial don’t act appropriately. When it comes to aging parents, however, we know when reality threatens life and limb, acting in our parents’ best interests is a priority, while trying to support and empower them in any way we can. This is but another way we help aging parents (and elders we care about) age well.

Photos of the Manhattan’s Westside and view of dangling crane:

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