It has occurred to me repeatedly these last two weeks since Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New York City and left others relatively untouched that Sandy has divided our city. Walking through Central Park on Sunday, I saw thousands of people: families with small children racing their sail boats in the basin and tiny tots climbing all over the Alice in Wonderland statue. Visitors to the city were in large numbers, judging by the many languages I heard as I strolled through the park on a beautiful and warm autumn day.
And then there is the other New York City: lower Manhattan where the subways and tunnels were flooded, shutting down communications and public transportation for days. Some are still not functioning, and hundreds of millions will be needed to repair the damages according to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Far worse are the lives lost and over 100 homes destroyed by fire at Breezy Point in Queens -- odd to imagine while the rains and winds ravaged the shore. Staten Island was among the worst hit areas of the City, and power has yet to be fully restored. Many more homes and businesses are lost to water damage in New York City, and for that matter in New Jersey and Long Island as well. The estimate of damaged homes in the region has risen to 160,000 by latest count, and the totals ratchet up every day, now estimated to be over $50 billion.
So what's it like to live in the tale of two cities, both our own? It makes me feel enormously thankful for having been spared this devastation. Yet my heart cries out for those who have lost everything, or maybe not everything but have suffered untold amounts of damage, and must repair their homes and businesses. It's an enormous burden -- one we all share.
Each of us in the city with two tales has a moral obligation to help those less fortunate. We can give money, our time in assisting our neighbors to get back on their feet, we can donate goods, clothing, and essential supplies, including food.
Don't get me wrong. It's not that i think people shouldn't be in Central Park or any other place that is safe in New York City, enjoying their family and friends on a beautiful autumn day. But I also think we can't be complacent about the misfortune of others. Let's give what we can until each life is restored.