|LaGuardia Aiport, October 30th|
Photo courtesy of http://huff.to/TlORCv
On Tuesday morning New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a press conference and specifically stated the marathon was still on. This news, coupled with the fact that none of our flights were cancelled, and everyone except the runner from Florida decided to attempt the trip. The first indication we got of the storm damage was when my phone rang Wednesday night while I was boarding my flight that our hotel had no power, most of lower Manhattan was still in the dark. A quick text to my dad and we moved to plan B which was to stay at our friends house in Queens.
Most of our flights departed our home airports before LaGuardia was even officially open, but the only evidence we saw of the storm flying into New York was a few boat harbors with boats strewn about. In the airport there was no indication anything even happened in the days prior, nor did we see evidence of any damage during the bus ride on the way to Astoria other than a few broken tree branches.
The first hurdle was actually making it to New York, which we all did on schedule and uneventfully, the second hurdle was transportation in New York. MTA purposefully parked subway cars on high ground and shut down lines to prevent as much damage as possible, so on Thursday when we landed much of the subwaay system was still not up and running. We were excited to see that 1 of the 2 lines that run from Queens to Manhattan was up and running, which meant we had a good way to travel between Queens and Manhattan.
|A DJ spinning the tunes at the very high energy expo.|
|The 2012 New York City Marathon crew, less Ruth|
What now? We all went through many emotions on Friday night wondering what was next. Do we fly home early? Do we stay in New York and use the extra time to site-see? Do we volunteer? We headed back to the place we were staying at in Queens and after getting some sleep from an emotional evening we starting planning our Sunday that was now wide open during Saturday over breakfast and coffee. My dad got in touch with a pastor he knew in the Bronx who then got us in touch with a pastor on the hard hit borough of Staten Island. We got word late Saturday night that they could use our help and we would be welcome on Sunday at Staten Island.
|Ferry Terminal on Sunday morning full of volunteers.|
|Heading out to Staten Island sporting our orange marathon shirts.|
|Dirty legs from mucking out homes.|
What was needed was the fully gutting of the homes on the first floor, down to the studs so they can dry out and be inspected. We spent the afternoon gutting a couple of hopes fully and helping out with a few others. Everything was moved out, flooring, sheet rock, insulation, appliances kitchen cabinets, everything. In fact the pictures you see of the large piles of trash in the streets on Staten Island is from all the debris removed from the flooded homes. Cars were pushed into houses, trees were down, fences blown over, ovens filled with seawater, it was definitely a moving experience being in the homes less than a week after they were flooded. We could tell by the low numbers of orange shirts that many of the other runners did not make it to this particular area of the island, which was about 5 miles from the terminal, although a few runners did make it and were helping out.
Around 4:30 we started to clean up and get ready to head out. There is martial law in that particular area due to looting, plus the area has no power so you can't work without light anyway, so all the volunteers and even many of the residents leave once it gets dark.
Sunday night we had some great discussion about the race, volunteering, and our thoughts for the day over some food at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company in Times Square. Then on Monday we headed out for a run in Central Park so we could run under the marathon banners while they were still up, although they were taking it down later in the morning.
What are my thoughts on the cancellation? It was the right choice based on the events that transpired earlier in the week. What I mean by this is that many victims (and non-victims) felt like the city of New York and the marathon were forgetting about the storm victims and that holding the race would divert resources and distract from the recovery, much of this is true. On Thursday the NYRR set up a fund to help Sandy victims and before the press conference was even over there was $1.5 million dollars ($1 million from NYRR and $500k from Asics) the next day the fund was over $2 million (mostly from other sponsors). Nearly all of the events leading up to the marathon were cancelled on Thursday as well. I can't help but wonder that if these choices were made and subsequently announced on Tuesday would people have had different thoughts about the race? Some argued it was about resources, it wasn't, but it was about perception and perception is important. The people of Staten Island were still pulling deceased victims from the rubble and the water was still in homes on Tuesday when Mayor Bloomberg said the race was on (remember the race starts on Staten Island), so I can certainly see their point of view. What I still have issue with is them saying earlier in the week the race would go ahead and then cancelling it 38 hours before the start. Of course in the running world this will be debated about for a long time, and hopefully other race organizers (and of course the NYRR) will learn from this experience.
I do want to add that NYRR donated the finish line food bags, bottled water, and finish line ponchos and shirts. The hotly debated finish line generators were rentals so they couldn't be donated, and they wouldn't do much good anyway since power quantity wasn't the problem, most homes didn't have power due to structural damage that will first need to be repaired. In fact as I write this there are thousands still without power but that is almost entirely due to structural damage. There did seem to be plenty of food and water on Staten Island as well, at least in the area we were in, about everywhere we turned there was someone offering food and bottled water, and kudos to all those restaurants that donated hot meals.
Here are some other pictures I captured during the trip.
|Residents in line for gas in Queens.|
|An eerie site looking down 57th street as several blocks were evacuated due to a broken crane hanging 60 stories up above the street.|
|A guard stands by pallets of finish line shirts and ponchos along Central Park West.|
|Box for clothing donations at the finish line.|
|Pallets of finish line finish line food bags still in Central Park Monday morning.|
|Quite the official marathon vehicle! In Central Park Monday morning.|