Friday, November 2, 2012

Trying To Wrap My Head Around Hurricane Sandy

At the moment I am in Southern Brooklyn, not to far from the Marine Park Bridge that crosses into Breezy Point, Riis Park, Rockaway Beach and Bell Harbor.

The eclectic communities that make up this area of Southern Brooklyn include Mill Basin, Mill Island, Bergan Beach, Marine Park, Flatlands, and Gerritsan Beach (which has gotten hit really bad).  Few homes here have electrical power or heat. Many households have children or elderly people in them. And it is getting cold fast.

Every 2 to 3 minutes the blaring sounds of a fire engine, police car, or ambulance bursts into the air ... there are a lot of ambulance sirens.  Even when I am sleeping I hear them now in my dreams.

On the streets, which are mostly void of working traffic signals, I see teams of police officers standing in heavily dense intersections trying to keep the heavy traffic of frustrated and scared drivers flowing.  These policemen and policewomen out on the streets come from some of the most heavily impacted areas of Hurricane Sandy- many have lost their homes, or in the least, been displaced just like so many.  But there they are - doing what they do . . . responding.  And it amazes me.

Many of my friends have reached out to me asking what they could do to help.  I have said to each of you at this time pray ... and when ready plan on providing assistance at the local organizational level in communities in New York and New Jersey that have been badly hit because, as I experienced during 9-11, these local community organizations are able to help those individuals who fall through the cracks ... and Sandy didn't simply make a few cracks - it blew out more than a few walls. 

There goes three more firetrucks, a small convoy of the national guard and two more ambulances. 

I know that I am bouncing from place to place here, but my own mind is 'walking in a circle'.

The day before Hurricane Sandy came to shore I was thinking that I should have returned back home in Los Angeles: my nice heated pool, my boat, and a round of golf were all on the day's agenda.  However, I decided to stay here in New York because, well I am a New Yorker.  Weighing in on my decision was the fact that I knew I had many family and friends who may bear the brunt of this storm, especially since the weather forecasters were talking about it coming into the the Hudson Harbor and Long Island's Atlantic Ocean. 

There goes an two Con Edison utility trucks.  Why are they empty?

It was only five days ago since Hurricane Sandy ascended onto the New York and New Jersey shores but the havoc it has caused feels more like it has been a month of no heat, no power, no gas, limited food, limited access to most things ... and no answers.  Many individuals are simply trying to figure out who to turn to, how to turn to them, and what to turn to them for.

Have you ever walked around in circles for 5 minutes?  Try doing it for 5 days. It will seem like 5 weeks.

Have you ever lost an important photograph or your favorite sweater?  Well, think about losing all of your possessions.

Have you a place to lay your head tonight?  For many thousands, the same can't be said.

Which reminds me, a word to everyone who does not have heat: lather your body in Vaseline - the petroleum  jell will close your pours, serving to keep your body's heat in while also acting like a wind and water deterrent.

Hurricane Sandy has causes such a mess.

Long Island's city of Long Beach and most of the homes in it are now gone.  This was the home of my brother John and Kelly.  My brother, like many who made Long Beach there home, was a 9-11 hero firefighter.  He nor Kelly didn't deserve this.  Thank God my brother has Kelly.  Long Beach was also the home of several other family members: their homes are either gone or severely damaged  . . . but you know, even the houses that have been severely damaged are useless since their is now power, the water in contaminated, the sewer systems have failed, the majority of the stores and restaurants have been destroyed, the schools shut, and garbage from the flood-soaked houses - food and furniture and clothing - liter the streets: Christmas has come early for the rodents.

Long Beach as it was once known is gone.

But the spirit of those who lived in Long Beach is time-tested and resilient.  These folks, like my brother and Kelly, know how to come back, and come back stronger than ever.

God willing, that is what we will see.

Closer to where I sit here in Brooklyn - very close to the once sandy beaches of the Rockaway Peninsula that I grew up on as a young boy and young adult playing in the refreshing waters of Riis Park- is Breezy Point, which sits on the westernmost part of the Queens peninsula.  It is a community very similar in many ways to Long Beach.

There go two more firetrucks, their lights streaming and the sirens screaming.

As many of you know, over 100 homes were destroyed by an unthinkable fire that occurred during the height of Hurricane Sandy.  Many more were lost due to the Atlantic's swells that caused the ocean to meet Jamaica Bay. 

Many of my friends including my brother are firefighters.  I can't imagine what it was like for the firefighters who responded to the Breezy Point nightmare, especially because Sandy's fierce and furious wind along with the rain created an unreachable inferno fireball that was once the home of many of New York's first responder firefighters and police officers.

My cousin George and his wife Stella had a home in Breezy Point.  My heart breaks for George and Stella.  Last month, they lost their son and grandson in an early Sunday morning automobile accident.  Now Sandy.  

Another ambulance. 

As I think about how many first-responders have personally been hit hardest by the storm who are out there now or will be out there later this evening, I immediately think of two pals of mine.  My dear friend Paul, who I have been friends with for over 25 years and who has made a difference with the I CARE Foundation our our efforts to rescue internationally kidnapped children is a sergeant with the Port Authority and has his hands more than full dealing with the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and its still 30 million gallons of water inside that tunnel, and the Queens Midtown Tunnel and the 12 million gallons that sit inside that tunnel.  Paul lives in Staten Island - which has been hit so bad.  In fact, on Paul's city block, one of his neighbors - a father - drowned the night of the storm when a surge of water flooded his home when he was in the basement, causing the doors to close on his life forever.

I'm not kidding, there are more sirens going off.  I can't see what they are attached to, but I think they are firetrucks. 

My very good friend is a Suffolk County police officer.  He lives in one of the areas of the Queens Peninsula that has been hit hardest: Rockaway Beach.   Fortunately for Chris he lived in a high-rise. But that didn't prevent the Atlantic from racing into his building.  Chris didn't need this: before becoming a highly decorated police officer Chris was part of the FDNY.  Tonight, this man will patrol areas of Suffolk Country prone to heavy crime and looting.  Ever since Sandy has shown up, I pray for my friend's safety because he is out in an area that is simply not cool.  Not cool at all.  And so if you pray, please keep Chris in your prayers because he has another major challenge going on: his daughter had been internationally abducted and he is doing everything legally possible to bring her home.

Sandy was one real bitch.

The other night I ran into my old friend Joe.  Joe, like my brother John, is a FDNY hero now disabled due to the time he served the Great City of New York.  Joe lived in Rockaway.  Then the Atlantic showed up courtesy of Sandy.

Who invited Sandy? Seriously, Sandy was one real uninvited bitch.

My oldest childhood friend is Sam.

There goes another convoy of flashing trucks - National Guard, Black SUV's, and a few FEMA trucks - and some glaring alarm is going off. I'm on sound overload.

My friend Sam lives in Staten Island.  I have been trying to reach him.  I can't.  We have been friends since he was three years old and I two years old.  I am worried about him and his family.

Back in Manhattan, most everything below 34th street is still shut down. Imagine being stuck in a building downtown with no power and no working elevator. Now imagine being on the 30th floor of a building.

In my role with the I CARE Foundation, we had sent out an Amicus Brief to help stop an abduction.  The package was put into a Fedex drop located in one of the buildings downtown.  I'm not sure if it was picked up by FedEx . . . I can't reach the building as it is closed, and I don't have the immediate access to the FedEx slip to track it.  This weighs on me heavily: I take great pride in been able to help protect children who are at great risk of being internationally abducted by one parent from another.

I have many friends in New Jersey.  Many are now homeless. Many more have no power, no heat, and no food.  And it is cold.

Fuck you, Sandy. 

Two hours ago I heard from my dear friend Eugene. I love Eugene, and was deeply worried about him, Clarice, Philippe and Lindsey.  They have no power and heat.  But they are okay, and the children are staying at Eugene's sister's home - who so happens to have heat.

Police car, DOT, ambulance, police car, Con Edison utility truck.

Hurricane Sandy happens to be the worst storm to hit our shores in a very long time.  The size and force of Bitch Sandy was so vast and powerful that it literally wiped out very large communities, while severely damaging many others.  With so many people now homeless, with so little power in the region, and with the cold winter now on us, the people impacted by this monster storm unlike anything in American history need your help.

First, seriously ... prayer does work.  So pray.

Secondly, if you are going to donate money, please donate a percentage of your money to nationally recognized organizations.  In addition, please consider reserving a part of what you intend to give to local organizations run by community leaders in respective areas that have been severely hit.  From my own personal experiences, I have seen that local organizations have the ability of assisting individuals in immediate need or individuals who might fall through the cracks for whatever reason.  And God knows, right now there is a lot of cracks.

Most of all, please give what you can because so many people need help.

In the coming days I will share a list of some organizations worth considering.

Odd, 9 empty tractor trailers just passed by. 

New York City is one of the most special places in the world because of the people that live here.  New Yorkers come from all over the world ... some even live in other places (Hello Ned Treanor!) . . . but they have share something remarkable: a tremendous sense of determination and belief in one another and themselves.

One final thing: to the Sandy's of the universe out there ... this morning ray of sun is symbolic of the spirit of those who live in the New York area. All that was lost will be rebuilt.