After the Eye of the Storm

In the mist of the chaos following Hurricane Sandy, I found myself without power, without gas and without heat- waiting for the magical moment when the comforts of my modern life would be bestowed back to me.  Despite the inconvenience and my huddling underneath layers of blankets to shield myself from the blistering cold, I had a warm heart.  Why?  Because I have seen first-hand the true nature of the people I call my neighbors, my friends, my fellow New Yorkers and those in other states and countries miles away.  I have seen how communities have rallied around those in need.  In the mist of tremendous loss, I have seen compassion in their eyes and the willingness to do whatever they can to help those who are facing the devastating reality of having lost everything-their home-or worse yet a loved one.  They speak with action, not words.  In fact, the silence speaks more than a book ever could. They collect clothes, canned foods, bottled water.  They raise money and give out hot coffee to strangers waiting on gas lines that snake around for blocks.  They open up their homes and share their beds and electrical outlets.  They do this with an open heart.  Such displays of kindness have only confirmed what I’ve known all along-that despite the tough exterior of New Yorkers, there lies a sense of compassion I’ve seen once before-during those dark days after September 11, 2001. It is this sense of community, the ‘one for all’ mentality , an indication that no matter what gets thrown our way, we will get through this together. The grief I saw then is the same I see now.  It is heartbreaking.  There is not a day that has gone by this week when I have not cried over stories of houses destroyed, lives uprooted, and childhood memories erased.  But yet what I see all around me gives me hope.  Hope that we can survive.  What has happened is unbelievably sad.  Our patience has been put to the test.  We are tired, cold and wish life would go back to normal.  For many that will take days, weeks, even months or years. But what I’ve learned is that we will overcome and we will rebuild.  In my heart, I know this to be true, as I know that the sun will come up tomorrow.  It is not a wish, it is a certainty.  We are New Yorkers-we are made to last.

For those who have lost so much, my heart and prayers go out to you.  I know I speak about New Yorkers in this blog but many from New Jersey have also lost so much and my thoughts are with them as well.

A grateful thanks to all of you who have provided assistance to the victims of Hurricane Sandy.  I am humbled by so many acts of kindness from people around the country and the world.

If you wish to help, please consider making a donation to the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org/Hurricane_Aid or the Salvation Army at http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/.

Erin Brady

Love Letter to New York

I was born and raised in the city known as the Big Apple.  Skyscrapers and hot dog stands on every street corner have been part of my landscape since I first learned how to walk.  I have perfected my “don’t mess with me, I’m on my way to somewhere important” look as I walk the sidewalks of Manhattan during rush hour.  I have also perfected my “don’t mess with me, I can be just as crazy as you” look as I ride the subway.  I root for the New York Yankees, live for designer sample sales, wait on long lines for a cup of coffee at Starbucks, complain about everything, can maneuver a busy street filled with people with the finesse of a prima ballerina and flag a cab down with just a wave of a hand.  I talk too fast and use lots of hand gestures.  I dress in various shades of black. I am what you call a New Yorker.

Part of being a New Yorker sometimes means that you take for granted how lucky you are to be part of this wonderful, crazy and loud city.  I realized this the other day as I was making my way down 34th Street to catch my train home.  I was walking past the Empire State Building and bumped into a group of tourists.  Normally, I would just keep going, sighing with frustration at being delayed for just a second.  But this time, I actually looked at them and followed their awestruck gaze up.  I saw what they saw and I found myself glued in place and smiling.  I mean, who wouldn’t be amazed?  Here I was standing in front of one of the most famous buildings in the world-the building which serves as the backdrop to many famous movies, from an Affair to Remember to one of my favorites-Sleepless in Seattle.  The place couples go to fall in love, get engaged or share a kiss.

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks or a dozen counterfeit bags being peddled on Eighth Avenue by men pushing nondescript shopping carts-I live in one of the greatest cities in the world.  Don’t get me wrong-every city is unique and has its fabulous qualities.  I’ve been to London, Paris and Rome, among others.  I’ve seen the most amazing things there and met some of the most wonderful people too.  But there’s just something about New York.  I’m drawn to it like a moth to a fire- drawn to its smells and its soul.  It’s ingrained into my memory like my family and friends are.  It’s where I go to eat with a choice of millions of restaurants from Ethiopian to Italian.  It’s where I can get a manicure and pedicure at any time of the day at dirt-cheap prices.  It’s where I can stroll through Central Park one minute and watch a hockey game while sipping on cold beer the next.  It sparkles with pretty lights during the holidays and explodes with energy during the hot summer evenings.  New York is the place where dreams go to live and it’s the place I call home.

And I realize that no matter where life takes me, it will always be there for me.  It’s true what they say-you can take the girl out of New York but you can’t take the New York out of the girl.

Erin