THE BLOG
11/02/2012 06:02 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

The NYC Marathon Should Have Been a Day of Service

The only way Mayor Bloomberg's original decision to keep the NYC marathon up and running would have been a good idea was if it had actually been a covert plan to get runners and spectators to flock to Manhattan to enlist them for a marathon day of community service. Fortunately, recent reports indicate the marathon was just cancelled.

We should use this moment to demonstrate how New Yorkers and individuals from around the world can come together on short notice to assist those in need. A last minute effort to put together and pull off a massive marathon day of community service would demonstrate the true New York spirit and stellar sense of initiative that New Yorkers are so very proud of about themselves.

When the storm hit, I was drafting an opinion piece on women and cybersecurity, for submission to CNN Opinions. This morning, I was about to put finish touches on that piece before sending it over, but decided to table my work because I felt like I needed to take some sort of action with regard to the aftermath of the hurricane.

While cybersecurity is a critical issue, sometimes you need to do a last minute shifting of priorities. Seeing the storm firsthand and watching the images on television that were happening in close proximity to where I was comfortably sitting made me feel like I should be writing about an issue close to home. I just signed up online last night to volunteer through the city's website, but have not yet been contacted for the organized efforts. I've also been watching family and friends try to figure out the best way to help out. People here in NY are struggling to figure out the best way to get involved, but are having a hard time figuring out how to help.

The hurricane relocated me about 20 blocks north of my apartment, which lost power, so I've been fortunate to simply be dealing with a minor inconvenience over the last few days. I fully appreciate and understand Mayor Bloomberg's desire to encourage people to continue with life as normal. This is particularly important after tragic events like 9/11 or other acts of terrorism where there is value in demonstrating that our normal way of life and values will not be impacted. Even after a hurricane or other type of natural disaster, there is value in encouraging people to try to return to a sense of normalcy.

Business, social interactions and one's daily activities should by no means come to a screeching halt. Having said that, hosting the NYC marathon would have interfered with the efforts taking place in the aftermath of the storm and would not have assisted in the effort to return to normalcy. The event uses the city's emergency resources and would have made transportation around the city increasingly difficult. There are people along the marathon's route who have lost their homes and are without heat and food. On Staten Island in particular, the damage and loss has been devastating and horrific.

With the death toll rising, the subways shut down in parts of the city and many without power, we should be extremely grateful for the emergency workers and government officials who are working around the clock to assist people and get the critical infrastructure up and running. If Mayor Bloomberg wants to show resilience and strength on Sunday, the city should give marathon runners and observers the opportunity to participate in volunteer projects around New York.

In place of the marathon, the mayor's office ought to organize a community service marathon and give runners, spectators and other New Yorkers the ability to report for service at various checkpoints around the city. This would show the right sort of resilience, sense of community and New York spirit. The hurricane is also an opportunity to inspire a spirit of volunteerism and engagement beyond the impact of the storm.

The issues facing people here in the aftermath of the hurricane are a microcosm of global issues that impact people around the world each day.

Food shortages, contaminated water supplies and a lack of power are issues that impact millions of people in poor and developing areas, in areas of conflict and in the aftermath of natural disasters. The marathon day of service does not need to be limited to this year because it can serve as a reminder each and every year that all of us here in NY need to find ways to give back to our community and our world at large.

Every cloud has a silver lining and Hurricane Sandy's silver lining ought to be the realization that the storm's aftermath has left New York with a horrific situation that should spark a stronger desire to serve our community and raise awareness about challenges facing populations all over the world. This weekend, we should run a marathon of service here in New York instead of the one that was originally planned.

Subscribe to Must Reads.
The internet's best stories, and interviews with their authors.