November 6, 2012

The City That Never Seeps

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Last week I was glued to the Internet even more so than usual. Since Sunday night, when preparations for Hurricane Sandy began across the tri-state area, I have been constantly online cycling through all New York related newspapers, magazines and blogs. On Monday night, as the hurricane edged ever closer to the coast, I was glued to constant updates like a diehard football fan watching the Superbowl. I have followed the fallout just as closely, knowing exactly which subways are up and running, when power returned to downtown Manhattan and the second the marathon was canceled. The results have been even more devastating to me, a native New Yorker, than they would be to somebody simply watching the news. Entire communities destroyed, people losing their jobs because they couldn’t make it to work, restaurants that may be forced to close due to losses and galleries in Chelsea flooded.As a New Yorker, born and raised in Manhattan, I latched onto anything that let me feel like I was home at this time of crisis. Looking at photos of familiar streets now flooded or littered with debris and reading Facebook updates from friends without power and damaged homes, I felt extremely despondent that I was not in New York bearing the burden with them. I was here in Ithaca, facing the typical cold and rain, while my brothers, both without power, were forced to squeeze into my parents’ one bedroom apartment uptown, which still had heat and electricity. I was strolling to class as usual when the subway I would take to get to my high school was completely flooded. My brother was going to decimated Staten Island to volunteer while I was watching a movie on Netflix. This guilt, however, feels very odd and uncomfortable. Why am I acting like a martyr, wishing I were experiencing the aftermath of a disaster? Shouldn’t I be thankful that I was away from all the chaos, that I still had heat and power, that I was spared a massive interruption to my daily routine unlike so many of my family and friends?   I haven’t been homesick at all in my three plus years at Cornell, but this disaster reminded me of how important New York City is in my life. It’s where I grew up and where I will undoubtedly end up. There is a certain snobbery attached to people who grew up in New York, where we feel like no other place can match up, or fulfill us in the same way. This has nothing to do with the quality of other cities, but entirely to do with the enigmatic draw and power New York has. And so imagining my home going through an event that could challenge its very infrastructure was incredibly nerve racking and surprisingly emotional.I must have called or texted half of my friends from home, asking them not just how they were doing, but what conditions in the city were like during and after the hurricane. “How did you get to work today?” “Until what avenue did the water come to by your house?” “What have you been eating since everything is closed?” I asked countless of these inane, hyper-specific questions that to my friends seemed ridiculous and irrelevant. But I needed to feel like I was there, that I could hear the wind howl as the storm drew near, or that I could wait an hour and a half to catch a bus in the days after the storm hit. In years to come, when people find out that I am from New York City, they will ask me where I was and what happened when Sandy hit, much like they do with September 11. “I wasn’t there,” I’ll respond. And I’ll feel like less of a New Yorker for it. It makes little sense and is self-pitying but who cares? It’s true.

Dan Rosen is a senior in the College of Art, Architecture, and Planning. He may be reached at drosen@cornellsun.com. Smell the Rosen ap­pears alternate Wednesdays this semester.

Original Author: Dan Rosen