I have spent the afternoon at my son’s house, down the street from the shul which had hosted my local minyan, which was, like my house, without electricity.
The streets are almost devoid of traffic. Motorists have, of necessity discovered a small town civility, since there are no traffic lights. Last night, with no internet, we listened to a mix of Israeli, East German and American hits over battery powered speakers that did surprisingly well. At intervals, we turned on our battery powered radio, which gave us our only sense of belonging to a greater collective.
Before the storm, I had been breathlessly plugged into presidential campaign news.Now, the governors of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, along with other public officials, provide the dominant voice of authority. It is almost as though the federal government and the election have receded into the background. All bridges and all tunnels except one have closed. Despite flooding, a crane hanging at a dangerous angle over a busy street in Manhattan, and a multitude of flood reports from submerged areas, things are quiet in our area, with few cars on the road. I was heartened to see a Con Ed vehicle, presumably fixing downed wires. Hopefully, my power will soon be restored. Until then, I am comparing the distances created by technology and the daily hutle that6 are no so much more apparent now that I am becoming reacquainted with my family.
When I went out with my family, the library was closed, as was every store that we passed en route. Whatever people were doing to occupy their time, it did not involve an exchange of money.
Notably absent from the airwaves was the voice of President Obama. I take this as a good sign. Perhaps, unlike Hurricane Sandy, he will pass by our city, and avoid compounding the congestion and displacement already wrought by the storm.
In my area, and from what I hear, throughout the city, people have generally passed the collective tests of the storm. I have not heard of any looting, and people seem to have slowed down and noticed each other. A natural disaster has a way of reminding us of the fragility of our mastery of the landscape. Phone lines, internet, refrigeration and other conveniences of modern life become all the more valued as they flicker on the collective grid.
When I am caught in a torrential downpour, there comes a moment when I realise that I am soaked to the bone, that there is no use in fleeing the downpour. At such a moment, calm sweeps over me, and I enjoy the feeling of the rain, walking through it as I would under a cloudless sky. It is in that manner that I am experiencing this storm.
As of 11:45 AM, I do not know if I will be physically able to make it to work, since all the bridges in the city are closed. Yet again, I am reminded that our place on the planet is a fragile one. Trees that are decades old have been snapped in this storm, and technologies that have evolved during the lives of those trees have been brought to a standstill. What we are left with in times like these, is our G-d given ability to figure and work our ways out of our collective difficulties. We are also left with each other. When trees and power lines have fallen, and we are left standing it is a time to be thankful.