I saw something on the faces of New Yorkers today that I’ve never seen before – fear. Suddenly, million dollar apartments, iPhones, and drinks at the Carlyle couldn’t protect anyone from the ravages of Hurricane Sandy.
As we all crowded on the bus this morning to escape an eerily dark downtown, people pushed and plodded their way on the M15 which was filled to 3 times capacity – but we all just wanted to get out of there.
That’s when I started crying.
Our neighborhood, rebuilt post-Ground Zero, is flooded. The Starbucks I hit every Saturday is filled with debris. The mannequins from the Abercrombie & Fitch sit in the middle of Water Street – a visual reminder that our possessions amount to nothing more than trash.
At first, on Sunday morning, we were all joking about our Larson Emergency Preparedness Plan – Sun Chips, chocolate, and mom’s sterno heater to make s’mores. It was like being in En Gedi, Tanzania or enduring bootcamp down in Merrit Island. This would pass and all would be back to normal.
And then the power went out as we were watching Seinfeld and suddenly the storm didn’t seem so funny anymore. The water was cut. The gas was cut. No router to get internet. No phone service. No communication with the outside world.
We stopped tweeting to conserve the juice on our iPhones, we started rationing water, we hunted down packets of mayonnaise, and realized that we were completely and utterly hopeless. With 1 battery operated clock we could keep track of time but otherwise, we had zero contact with the outside world.
After the storm hit and water surged up our street, suddenly we, along with all New Yorkers started looking outwards. Naked guy across the street put a pair of pants on and pointed his flashlight across the way to see if there was life on our side. A family on Gold Street lit 50 candles and ate dinner together. Without distractions and work and TV, New Yorkers started to look outward for community, assurances that we’re not alone.
We grabbed our flashlight and headed into the hallway. It was silent. We made our way down 8 flights of stairs to find the “Supa” and our doorman Noelle and a bunch of neighbors I don’t know huddled around a radio. And we did something New Yorkers loathe to do – we started talking.
We wandered around the neighborhood but nothing was opened. People were zoned – likely because no Starbucks was available and New Yorkers couldn’t get to work. 2 dangerous combinations.
We hauled back up the stairs and played Bible Trivia (guess who won?), lit candles to create a Jane Austen atmosphere as we all debated what C.S. Lewis meant by “Mrs. Fidget”, ate tuna, and sang “Soon and Very Soon.”
We started predicting who’ll win the election, played Guess Who (Wall got stumped on Mr. Peanut, I got stumped on an electron) and then talked about whether Mayor Bloomberg could fudge the rules and stay on another term. Just so we can keep hearing him speak that atrocious Spanish.
Day 4 we got on the bus for uptown. They’re calling it a Tale of 2 Cities because half the City has power and water and doesn’t seem to realize that downtown is full of refugees. People who are displaced. Disoriented. It could be 3 days until we have power, could be a month. No one knows.
We came uptown and got hot water and real food. I’ve never been more thankful. Across this City people are alone. In other parts of the country people lost their homes. We have nothing to complain about – and yet this brief brush with our vulnerability is a reminder that as much as we need to be physically prepared for these natural disasters – we need a spiritual preparedness plan first and foremost.
Do we know where our security & hope is found? In 1 swoop people lost all they owned. We can’t distract ourselves with work this week as the office is closed and many of us lack power. The subways are shut down and you can’t get anywhere and get your “to do” list accomplished. Our only anchor, our only hope, is in the One who rules “enthroned over the flood” (Psalm 29).
Today I am ever thankful for our church friends – we’ve been flooded with invitations. Thankful for my sibs and the fellowship we have – I remain deeply in prayer for people lonely in dark apartments downtown who need the Lord’s touch and human interaction. Thankful for The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services workers feeding and keeping people warm (first donation I make when this ordeal is over – never fully appreciated a hot shower and food before).
But mostly, thankful for the peace of Christ. Growing up we sang a song “Don’t build your house on the sandy land.” No truer words were spoken: “Build your house upon the Rock – Jesus.”