The first rule of covering a horrific event aftermath is: No Disaster Baiting. After Hurricane Katrina, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger showed orderly earthquake fallout in California, pointing out to the cable news crews - "The people are happy. They're doing yooogahh."
When you're hurting, and raw, someone comparing their post-crisis reaction to yours feels like a dig. "Look at this orderly disaster, unlike (cough cough)." Losing friends, seeing loved ones fight for the basic elements of survival, helping who you can but knowing it will never be enough - it works its way into your DNA.
The flip side to the anger is remembering every kindness. Stephanie, a friend of a friend, was leaving the country for a month and let us live in her home in Milwaukee, back when no one was allowed to return to NOLA. My husband started a relief fund and within weeks music lovers started sending nomRf horns, pianos, cars, concertinas, clothes, sheet music, CD's, electric guitars, standup bass guitars, amps, baby grand pianos, sound boards - all to replace those New Orleans musicians lost to Katrina. It was overwhelming.
Residents of Staten Island, New Jersey, New York City and the entire East Coast need that outpouring now. No strings, no judgment, no grandstanding, no politicizing - just help. In this way, all disasters are the same. When benefit funding starts coming in, and it will, ask recipients in the fields that touch your heart (schools, libraries, arts, pets, children) where their donation checks are coming from. It's a smart way to find philanthropic first responders to support.
Many students who came to the Gulf Coast to help gut homes fell in love with our area and ended up moving here as adults. We're blessed to have them. I wish the same for the East Coast.
One caveat on transplant sensitivity: no matter how many years have passed, do not move to a formerly battered area and tell a local things are better than before thanks to the lessons of ______. A mountain of gentrification does not make an area better after its residents have been swept away. It makes it different. Don't ask if New York musicians can play for your benefit for New York at no cost. Hire them and pay the hell out of them, it's a good way to start catching up on rent and lost gigs.
These are things that come to mind, but overall I've gotten less prickly seven years after the levee breaches. I no longer think the band Katrina and the Waves should change its name. Technically, it wasn't their fault. If you're living through the Sandy aftermath, hoping next week's storm dissipates well before hitting shore, Halloween costumes from Grease were not funny. They never will be. Get as mad as you want about anything you want, including Olivia Newton John lookalikes in black unitards.
Own this anger. It will be with you for the long haul. So will the awe at every single act of common human decency.