Last week, amid all the Hurricane Sandy madness, I flew out to New York. The trip had been in the planning for a few weeks – Nike were flying myself and a few members of Run Dem Crew out and doing some events around the New York City Marathon – but obviously, when Sandy hit, everything was up in the air. We didn’t get word that the trip was definitely on til 9:30pm on Wednesday night and we were on a flight at lunchtime on Thursday. Not really sure what we’d be arriving to see, anticipation built on the flight.
Coming in to land you knew something was wrong immediately. Usually flying in over New York, you have that great moment where you see all the lights. Well, this time, the whole of downtown was just a big, pitch black hole. We landed, had dinner in Brooklyn and a friend of ours drove us in to Manhattan to our hotel. Going over the bridge in to the Lower East Side, our friend turned his headlights off so we could get a sense of exactly how dark it was. It was crazy dark. Pitch black dark. Couldn’t see anything dark. End of days kind of dark. No one was around, the streets were deserted and yet we knew there were people in those buildings, with no power or heat, just trying to survive.
A friend who lives in the Lower East Side area told us of gangs roaming the streets with baseball bats and metal pipes, people had been robbed, some looted. All we’d been hearing on the news was about the great spirit of the city, but on the ground, particularly in the black out areas, it was a little dangerous. I was glad to not have to walk around there alone.
We got to The Ace Hotel on 29th Street, which luckily had power, but everything on the opposite side of the street was in darkness. We were insanely lucky to have power – anything south of us was in pitch black, north of us, it was business as usual.
Friday morning when we woke up, our hotel lobby was crammed full of people, like a refugee camp, all clamoring for space to fire up their laptops, charge their phones, get word to loved ones that they were OK. Any cafe or public building you went to, it was the same story – people trying to just get little bits of power where they could. Downtown the cell phone towers had been knocked out so many of those affected had to walk uptown to get a signal to be able to communicate with loved ones.
During the day, we randomly bumped into Mos Def, as you do….
And that evening, Nike had organised an event called the Rebel Run. As we walked downtown to the start point, passed the Flatiron building, which was in darkness, through chaotic traffic due to all the traffic lights being out and other madness, we got word that the Nike run had been canceled (this was just after the news that the marathon had been canceled too). Not to be deterred though, we, along with the Bridge Runners did a run anyway from the Lower East Side (in darkness) up to midtown and the lights of Times Square. Sunday, we did an unofficial half marathon through the city (a donation of canned goods and bottled water for victims of Sandy in Far Rockaway in Queens, was the race entry fee). Check out my other site Spikes and Heelsfor more details of my crazy New York running shenanigans.
Overall, the experience of bring in New York immediately post-Sandy was extremely surreal. To see a city that is the very definition of ‘bright lights, big city’ in darkness was thoroughly bizarre. In Manhattan, we were away from any major devastation – the most we saw were a few fallen trees – but the tales we heard of the areas like Rockaway and Coney Island which were hit particularly hard were heartbreaking. It really made me realise, as much as we prize modernity and think we’re living on top, nature can really wipe us out in a heartbeat. To see the infamous New York brought to its knees is a definite reminder of that.