It’s been some years since our last family vacation in Brigantine, N.J. But I still fondly remember the wide expanse of pristine beach, with a distant view of the Atlantic City hotels to the south; the flat grid of streets lined with homes and vacation apartments, perfect for leisurely bike rides; the summer pleasures of ice cream, sub sandwiches and barbeques on the patio.
On Wednesday, President Obama and Gov. Chris Christie visited a shelter housing Hurricane Sandy survivors in Brigantine. Last night, I spoke with my friend, Paul Schultz, who lives in Queens, but spent a part of his youth in Brigantine, visits there nearly every summer and loves to fish in its waters. He introduced us to the small town of 9,500 residents.
“Brigantine’s destroyed,” he said, without elaboration.
Paul has his own adjustments to make because of the hurricane. His neighborhood and home are fine, but the offices of the New York Daily News in lower Manhattan, where he works, are uninhabitable at the moment. Power has been restored to the office tower, he explained, but its location near some gasoline tanks, holding fuel for ferries, was compromised after the tanks exploded as a result of the hurricane. It’s too toxic. So, starting today, he and other staff must take shuttles to a temporary office at the newspaper’s printing plant in Jersey City.
My own more-elevated neighborhood in the Bronx, despite its proximity to the Hudson River, usually fares better in weather-related events. But while I am grateful, I take little comfort in being protected while others suffer.
For those of us who live here, New York City is like a small nation composed of many villages. We may have never stepped foot in some of those villages, but it is the unity of the whole that makes the city what it is and provides its pleasures, opportunities and challenges. In many ways, this bond applies to the entire region, including New Jersey, the Hudson Valley, Long Island and parts of Connecticut.
The past few days have been disheartening.
I do take comfort in the fact that many United Methodists, from near and far, already are calling or emailing the New York and Greater New Jersey conferences to offer their assistance and prayers. After the quick succession of Irene and Sandy, hurricanes may become part of a new normal for us and we can learn from those who face such threats on an annual basis and are experienced in protecting and rebuilding.
I also take comfort in the expertise of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, which led a successful coalition of faith groups in its response to Hurricane Katrina, has trained many early response teams and will be able to support annual conferences and congregations as they reach out to communities and individuals affected by Sandy.
How about you?