It was discombobulating. With all the destruction and massive flooding in lower Manhattan and outlying areas, the worst thing Hurricane Sandy did to my uptown neck of the woods was close the libraries. I was all set to return my DVD movies for a fresh supply when Sandy blew into town and knocked out power below 34th street, effectively shutting down the entire NYC Pubic library system.

This morning I’ve been looking at photos of flooded downtown and destroyed homes and mud-splattered businesses in hard hit coastal areas where almost two million people are still without power or heat. And some still don’t have water. Families stand in patient, somber lines waiting for food or to fill jugs with gasoline. Last night temps hit the thirties. And I know, thanks to this old brownstone’s sometimes dysfunctional boiler, no thickness of blankets can keep you warm when it’s that cold. And at some point you have to throw off those blankets and dress in a freezing room without benefit of a warm shower or hot breakfast.

The morning after the storm hit, neighbors who used to live in our building called from their new apartment on 14th Street. They had lost both water and electricity, which meant no elevators, which further meant they had to climb down 21 flights of stairs in blackness to go out and then haul food and water back up those 21 darkened floors. Cut off from the news, they had no idea if any businesses were open to purchase food, which not being the most organized bunch, they needed.

After a scouting expedition that showed a few open coffee shops with outside lines of waiting diners and three neighborhood supermarkets surprisingly open, I relayed that info downtown. Seventy-eight years old with an injured leg, the family grandmother, however, wasn’t going anywhere. More fit, her daughter strapped on a backpack and headed off into the darkness. Like residents of the stricken projects, for five days, she carried food and water up 105 staircases till at last on Friday their power was restored.

Plenty of people, however, in surrounding hard hit areas including angry residents of the Rockaways and Staten Island who feel they have been deserted, are still trying to cope with no electricity or heat and no gasoline to get them to food and supplies. Until all our neighbors who were negatively affected by Hurricane Sandy have these basics, there’s no fully enjoying our own bounty…

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