A month ago, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and coverage was everywhere, as the superstorm punched out New Jersey and New York and roiled across a swath of multiple states. Over the weekend, I saw a story about homes in the Breezy Point area of Queens being looted while residents, still trying to recover, were away for Thanksgiving. Today, I saw a news report from the Jersey Shore about the massive amount of recovery work still left to do. Before that, I realized I hadn't seen much Sandy coverage for almost two weeks.
Perhaps I'm just imagining things, but I seem to remember after Hurricane Katrina there was a longer national awareness. Maybe one reason Katrina seemed to linger in our collective psyche was because the stories of chaos (I'm remembering the Superdome) seemed so horrific and unbelievable. After the pictures came in on devastated houses and sand-filled streets with Sandy, the follow-up stories seemed almost mundane, focusing on gas rationing, with the even-odd fill-up days and occasional clashes of violent frustration. Soon, even those stories became repetitive; the stories evaporated quicker than the gas lines.
Hurricane Sandy has tough competition for the minds and hearts of the populace. PSY with "Gangnam Style" has now outpaced Justin Bieber on YouTube. Black Friday is followed up by Cyber Monday. The fiscal cliff looms with rumors of backroom deals. Investigators in the Casey Anthony case checked IE on her home computer but neglected to find "fool proof suffication" Googled on Mozilla the last day Caylee was seen alive. Superstorm Sandy appears to have been inundated by the daily flood of information, swept into a backwater of much of the country's attention. It was in mine as I realized work pressures, family issues and looming holiday stress had pushed Sandy off my radar. I don't think it's just me. I think many people have moved on from Sandy, unless personally impacted by the storm. That's normal, I suppose, but normal doesn't necessarily mean right or good.
In New York City, Sandy isn't being compared to Katrina; it's being compared to 9/11. The Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island (yes, that's the name) is the "staging area" for the clean-up, just as it was for the massive amount of debris after 9/11. "The scale of the job for the metropolitan area is unprecedented, compared to any mid-Atlantic disaster in recent decades; across the region an estimated 12 million cubic yards must be cleared." That story in my local paper, with its tie-in to 9/11, brought the magnitude of Sandy back into focus. I hadn't intentionally decided to no longer think about those struggling with the aftermath of Sandy; I just got busy with other things and distracted by other stories and, before I knew it, weeks had gone by.
How easily we move on in life. Some moving on is good but some moving on isn't, as we can move on faster than we should and forget things we should remember. We can forget people we should remember. But I live across the country from the disaster. Why shouldn't I move on when there's nothing really I can do besides send money to the Red Cross? I can't go to New Jersey and shovel sand out of someone's house. Maybe there is something I can do closer to home.
People undergo disasters all the time. A storm doesn't necessarily come in and remove them from their homes but the loss of a job does. A loved one isn't killed by a falling tree or a downed power line but through accident or disease. People don't lose power but lose their power to hope. I can't go to New Jersey to help but I can go down the street to help. When I do, I'm participating in a smaller scale recovery; I'm rebuilding community one relationship at a time.