Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Lot More Can Happen in a Year

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of running my fourth New York City Marathon with my good friend Sharon. In the days prior, I thought a lot about all that's happened in the last year and the significance of this race. This Halloween, I was lucky enough to be running and enjoying the company of a bunch of awesome people. Halloween 2012 happened differently.

Halloween was on a Wednesday last year, a mere two days after Hurricane Sandy made landfall and downtown Manhattan was plunged into darkness. On that evening, after working until 9 or 10 at night, I decided to run home, as I so often do. I knew it would be a different experience, and that I'd see my city in a different light (literally and figuratively, I suppose) than I ever had before. I knew it might not even be a good idea. But I couldn't help myself. Between the couple of days I'd spend visiting family in Texas and the onslaught of Sandy, I hadn't run in four days. Four. It might as well have been forever. Plus, I had to see everything for myself. I felt like I had to be there and really understand.

Certainly, I couldn't truly understand because devastation in Manhattan itself was minimal compared to areas like the Rockaways and Staten Island, but it was a perspective I still needed to have. So I left work and headed toward the West Side Highway. There was not much unusual about that part of the run. Midtown was bustling and its power seemed to be mostly intact. It wasn't until I reached the west side, headed south, and approached 30th Street that things were very obviously different.

From one block to the next, the streets went from well-lit to pitch black. I tried to run slowly so as not to trip over anything. I was wearing a headlamp, but it was little better than a toy so I turned it off after awhile. Running through Chelsea, I observed large trucks there, pumping away the last of the water. The typically lit and enormous Chelsea Piers was completely dark, and the generators that had been placed there made the area smell like gasoline. Once I reached 14th Street, I turned east and began traversing the avenues. Everything was dark. People were out, but not many and I could tell those who were were being as cautious about it as I was. Warily observing, in case the dark wasn't the streets' only danger.

People seemed curious, attentive and solemn, but not angry. I sensed a mindset of "let's get through this together" more than one of unrest. And that made me feel safer. Intersections were manned by police and lit with dozens of flares. I reached Union Square and saw that a few enterprising street vendors had somehow managed to acquire and begin selling an impressive array of hurricane-related inventory including flashlights, lanterns and batteries.

I reached 1st Avenue and turned south, I started noticing a heartening phenomenon. Although a large majority of businesses were closed, some were open. Pizzerias and bars all down the avenue were open and operating by candle light. And patrons seemed happy to be there. I was happy to be there, running through my city as if everything was normal, yet understanding that it was profoundly different. I think we were all very much aware that things were not okay, but brightly optimistic that they would be eventually.

I started this entry believing I would be contrasting my Halloween experiences between last year and this year. In the end, though, I realize that they were less different than I thought. I was still running. And enjoying the company of a bunch of awesome people.

Edit: Meanwhile, the Philippines is currently dealing with the aftermath of one of the most powerful typhoons in recorded history. You can donate here.

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