essential disaster (and life) resource: neighbors + friends

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we followed the New York Time’s blog Storm Aftermath: Live Updates and hit upon an amazing post called “Finding Good Neighbors in Wake of Disaster” by Marcus Yam. Because it had no hyperlink, we excerpted much of it below. The gist: neighbors are one of the best resources you can have, both for tangible help,  moral support and for unexpected collaborations in problem solving. Amidst the horrifc devastation of Sandy, this has been the ongoing theme.

Then on Sunday night, CBS’ 60 minutes covered the amazing community of Belle Harbor, Queens, where over 100 houses were burnt to the ground by fires during Sandy. (Video link here.) It is a stunning 13 minutes about what the word community really means.

after Hurricane Sandy

LONG BEACH, N.Y. Veronica McGuire stood shivering in the doorway of her apartment late Saturday night on East Broadway, nearly a week after the Hurricane Sandy pushed up the East Coast. The storm swept Long Beach clear of modern-day amenities, leaving residents to cope in a harsh new environment. Scenes of hardship and emotional strife are now commonplace.

But amid this new landscape, residents said they are increasingly finding that their best and closest resource is each other. “If it were not for my neighbors, I don’t think I would have ever made it out of this,” Ms. McGuire said from the doorway of a five-family building.

On the street before her, sirens screeched and lights from service trucks flashed, as they have for the last six days.

“I’m so nervous and scared, but I see joy in the face of disaster,” Ms. McGuire said. “I look at my daughter with my three grandchildren making hopscotch drawings with chalk in the street. That’s all the fun they can have right now, but I think you have to find the good things.”

Across the street, Patricia Restrepo, 40, a veterinarian, tended to abandoned animals. In her kitchen, she warmed cans of cat food above a candle. “I also use it to heat ravioli,” she said with several open cans nearby bearing witness…

….Others maintained a sense of humor as well as hope.

“We had three feet of water in the house — I literally had fish in my living room,” said Steven Harris, 60, a urologist who lives in the canals neighborhood. “What’s nice is the gratitude we feel with everyone offering help. My buddy couldn’t get a prescription. So I called it in for him at CVS.”

Dr. Harris said he and his wife could not get lodging near J.F.K. because hotels were filled in anticipation of the marathon. “We had to come back here,” he said, where the couple was holed up with his two dogs and two cats.

“I had to kick the fish out of the way,” he said. “It’s terrible but it’s funny.” Dr. Harris scrambled back to a reporter and with his breathe turning to smoke from the cold said, “I do have a good supply of cigars so I’m lucky.”

As residents struggled with packages and emergency vehicles whisked passed him, one man who asked not to be identified handed out bottles of water to passersby from a package he had paid for. Perplexed when asked why, he replied, “I have to help the people, don’t I?”

The photo above is from the New York Time’s live updates from the Storm’s Aftermath: Rockaway Beach residents (among the most seriously slammed)  gathered around a makeshift bonfire for warmth and light Saturday night, the most elemental of improvisations. (Check out Rockaway resident Cynthia Ramnarace’s vivid description of life in Rockaway.)

Although Sandy has died down in the news, as disasters eventually do, whole communities remain devastated and in need of help. We’re wondering if we can continue to see ourselves are part of a greater community, and like the neighbors of Belle Harbor, or Rockaway Beach, lend a hand.

Occupy Sandy seems to be among the most pro-active grass-roots movements and needs donations. Network for Good also has a page of Sandy relief charities.

Check out this amazing site live-streaming storm relief in various communities to GET the task at hand, and witness an awesome spirit at work.

Related posts: what unkempt or messy or shabby can mean
leaving secret (or surprise) presents
improvising when all hell has broken loose
hurricane sandy time-lapse: what happened is happening still
improvising when all hell has broken loose

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