On Sunday, October 28, at 4 p.m., I joined the parishioners at St. James Cathedral Basilica in Brooklyn in honoring my friend and their fellow congregant, Frank Macchiarola. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI had bestowed upon Frank the Papal Honor of Knight Commander of the Holy Order of St. Gregory the Great. Frank had been the Chancellor of the Board of Education appointed by me in 1978, and I believe he is the best chancellor to have ever presided over the New York City public school system.
After the service, I learned that the city was shutting down due to the approach of Hurricane Sandy. Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo announced that the subways, buses, bridges and tunnels, with the exception of the Lincoln Tunnel, would soon be closed. It turned out to be the correct decision, notwithstanding complaints that the closings were premature.
Sandy struck. When I woke up on Tuesday morning, I had no electricity in my apartment. After being told by my doorman that it could be off for five or more days, I decided to leave the building, even though it required walking down 16 flights of stairs.
The concierge assigned a young man to carry my suitcase and accompany me down the stairs. I was very grateful for his assistance, good humor and his flashlight. The descent wasn't easy because of my physical condition. (I have spinal stenosis, a pacemaker, congestive heart failure and walk with a cane.) After about a half-hour which included several rests we arrived in the lobby.
I then traveled by car over the George Washington Bridge to my sister's home in New Jersey. She lives in a wonderful assisted-living complex, and although she had no electricity, a generator provided access to a working elevator which I took to her apartment on the fourth floor. I stayed overnight and on Wednesday morning went to my office in midtown Manhattan where I wrote my movie reviews and this commentary.
New Yorkers are resilient. Nevertheless, these catastrophes make us appreciate the importance of energy to the world as much as fire was appreciated by prehistoric mankind. When I think of the problems others in the city had during the storm, including over 100 homes burning to the ground, heart attacks, lethal injuries as a result of accidents including falling trees, and 75 people nationwide who lost their lives, I realize how lucky most of us have been, suffering primarily inconvenience.
I saw my cardiologist, Dr. Joseph Tenenbaum, today, and he said the feat of going down 16 stories established that I am stronger today than I was when he last saw me before the storm. That's good news.