“I’m not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship.” - Louisa May Alcott
Style Scout -Tiger Darrow
It's not quite a ghost town, but it's close. I lived in the middle of all of the power outages, and walking around the morning after the hurricane hit on my street, you couldn't really tell that something had happened at first. It was just like waking up before all the shops had opened or something. Not as busy as usual, but there were still joggers out and about, and people walking around. But we were really all doing the same thing: surveying the damage. The post storm quiet was eerie and the sirens of the police cars and firetrucks that would go whizzing past in the surrounding blocks added to the sinking feeling in my gut as I stepped out the door.
The night of the storm was all jokes. But the kind of jokes that you use to take your mind off of the sound of the metal gates outside slamming in the howling winds. My suite mates were sitting around the table in our common room watching a movie and I was working on my laptop in bed. We were all crossing our fingers that the power would stay on, but we knew that sooner or later, we would be left in the dark. Especially when the lights started flickering. When they finally did cut out and the emergency lights in the hall switched on. "Here go our 90 minutes of emergency lighting!" my roommate yelled from the other room. I broke the glow sticks that I had bought at the store and put them in cups on the common table so we could conserve the batteries in our flashlights, and we opened our front door to let the hall light in. While my suite mates played cards, I sat outside in the hall with my drawing supplies.
Glow stick candles. The guy at the store laughed at me when I bought them, but they worked out nicely.
Along with our electricity, went our hot water, and then our cell reception. For about an hour, you could step just outside the building to send and receive texts, but eventually, that faded as well. I made a few futile attempts to get reception to text back home to let my mother know what was going on and get updates from her since none of us had any way of knowing the status of the storm.
My friend, Rahm, lightening the mood in the lobby just before the emergency lights went out
I moved my drawing to the lobby of my dorm-- where the emergency lighting was dimming rapidly--so I could periodically step outside to check my phone. I stood in the wind and drizzly pinprick rain, desperately waving my phone in the air.
There I was, with my phone out and false hope, watching the police cars and vans drive through the streets, patrolling for looters. I finally gave up after about 15 minutes and stepped inside for the night. Once our emergency lighting cut out, there was really nothing else to do but shut off our phones to conserve battery and sleep until there was light again; so, everyone in my suite got settled into our beds for the night and fell asleep to the sound of the residual winds of the storm outside our windows.
My roommate and I woke up at around the same time. Since we live on the second floor, and we're wedged between buildings, we don't have too much in the way of natural light in our room, and it takes us a while to get up without an alarm. We were out of bed at around noon. I was stir-crazy from being inside and not being able to communicate with anyone outside of my dorm, so I went out on my own to investigate. Half to see what had happened to the neighborhood, and half to see if I could get some cell reception and find out what was going on.
My “go bag” I prepared in case of emergency evacuation.
It feels like something out of The Walking Dead in lower Manhattan. Most stores are closed. The windows are dirty from the rain and wind. It doesn't help that there are Halloween decorations in a lot of the stores—the easiest decoration being spider webs-- to add to the eerie ambiance of the city. The stores that have decided to open for business don’t have electricity, so patrons must use flashlights in addition to the battery-powered electronic candles that some store owners have set in the corners. At a glance, it looks like zombie apocalypse-survivors are scouring the aisles of stores they’ve broken into for provisions. You have to look twice to see that they’re actually meant to be there.
A dangling sign on 3rd Ave, near where I live.
Walking a few more blocks north, there are a few stores that somehow have power--possibly a backup generator-- including a 7 Eleven, that by around 2pm had set up tables with surge protectors outside for people to charge their computers and phones on. The line for these outlets stretched around the block as bundled New Yorkers rapidly sent messages to their loved ones and checked the news. Other lines were for food at the few bodegas that opened their doors to customers despite the lack of electricity. Some places opened, but put signs outside saying what they could offer at that time, like one restaurant on the corner of Union Square that had a handwritten sign saying “falafel fries only.”
7 Eleven just a few hours before setting up tables as charging stations.
I kept walking and snapping photos--going nowhere, really--when suddenly, at around 27th st, my phone buzzed. Text and email tones came pouring out of it. I looked around and saw that on my block, street lights were working. I had reception. Instantly, I called my mother to give her an update, and check on what the news was. She warned me of rats and to be sure to watch for fallen cables and not-yet-fallen cranes.
The “not yet fallen” crane.
I continued to wander to see what it was like farther north. Everything was closed, and there were more fallen leaves than usual on the ground, but there was no damage to the buildings, and there seemed to be electricity. Everything looked untouched, but asleep. When I returned to my dorm, the glow-tape on the stairs up to my floor had given out--there was no way for it to charge up--so I used my phone as a light to find my way to my room. Everything was still. My roommate was there with one of her friends, but there was a strange, somber, calmness upon the entire building. I sat on my bed, unsure of what to do next, when I heard a knock on my door. One of my friends from down the street had made his way over to my place to check in on me and see what my plan was for the rest of the day. We walked to Kimmel, one of NYU’s student activities centers, where we had been told there was electricity and wifi so we could figure out where to go next.
The other “landmark disaster spot”: the fallen facade of the building on 8th Ave.
So many people were using the wifi in Kimmel and outside of NYU’s library, Bobst, that connecting was difficult. I found that I could only get connected on my phone and when I was sitting outside the building. He and I sat in the cold passing my phone (his wouldn’t connect at all) between the two of us, making living arrangements for the next 4 days via Facebook chat since we still couldn’t get any sort of cellphone service. Once we had both found places to stay, we grabbed dinner and split a cab going uptown.
NYU began evacuating the dorms that didn’t have electricity on Wednesday. Students had to be out by 3 PM, and any student that didn’t have a place to stay off campus was sent to Kimmel or Palladium, one of our dorms on Union Square that has electricity in its lobby, though there’s no reception, wifi, or electricity in individual rooms. I woke up at around 7:30 AM because I was so incredibly fortunate to get to stay at a family friend’s beautiful place with huge windows, so I woke up with the sun.
My beautiful view at 7:30 AM.
It was a beautiful day, and I knew I would need to get more clothing and my cello from my dorm before they locked students out of the buildings, since I packed a little too hastily the night before, so I figured I would walk to the East Village after making breakfast. One of my best friends sent me a text saying how beautiful it was outside and checked in to see how everything was going. I told her what part of town I was staying in, and as it turned out, she was staying a few blocks south of me, on the other side of Central Park. When I told her I was planning on walking to my dorm, she offered to meet up with me, because she needed to pick up a few things as well. We met at the bottom of the park and began our trek together, which ended up being a 160+ block walk.
What struck me the hardest was how different uptown and downtown Manhattan were. The previous day, I had seen lines around the block for the few little food carts that were running on generators and stores that allowed their patrons to browse the shelves with flashlights. On my walk from the apartment down to my dorm, I saw lines for stores as well, but it was dramatically different. There was a giant line around the corner for the UGG store. I was shocked. How was it that only 40 blocks away, there was an entire community of people just hoping to get food, while these people waited in line for shoes?
The line outside of the UGG store.
There was also a huge line at the Apple store, but they were providing electricity for people to charge their phones… helping people keep in touch… not just selling shoes.
My friend and I continued our walk, and as we descended into downtown Manhattan, clouds began to gather overhead. The wind picked up. I was so glad to have made the journey with a friend instead of by myself. When you see a place like Union Square, which is usually bustling with life and the smell of different food carts every 20 feet, nearly empty, it’s a shock. You look at your phone, and you have no reception. You feel alone.
A nearly empty Union Square.
After gathering what we needed from our dorms, my friend and I walked back uptown. We sat outside a cafe and had lunch together, reflecting on the storm, catching up, talking about boys and being girly. Upon returning to where I was staying, I was overwhelmed with a sense of complete joy and love over how many texts, emails, Facebook messages, and phone calls I had received checking in on my whereabouts and how I was doing. My friends and I have all been checking up on each other every day to make sure everyone is safe and sound.
The storm, as devastating as it was and continues to be, has created such a beautiful sense of community among NYU’s students. I’m so grateful and so fortunate to have so many caring people in my life. It’s rumored that we’re to get electricity possibly by the weekend. If this is the case, I know everyone is eager for life to return to normal, but for now, I’d say we’re all doing alright, and I’m proud of the way everyone is handling the storm. My heart goes out to those who were hit even harder by Hurricane Sandy and those who lost loved ones in the storm.
View looking back on Lower Manhattan.
“Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray.” - Lord Byron
Until next time, Tiger