It was a beautiful late summer day. The streets were crowded with people milling around. Aimlessly.
“I think we should go down there,” I said.
“Why” my fiancé asked?
“I want to do something. Maybe, we could help somehow.”
“I don’t know. I’m not sure what we could do there.”
“Yeah, dude,” my roommate added. “I don’t even know how we could get there. The subways are not running below 14th.”
“We could walk from 14th. It’s not so far. I want to help out. What good are we doing sitting here?”
The three of us stood outside of the temporary Red Cross building. By the time we had gotten there, they were no longer even taking blood. All we could offer was dried goods – soap, power bars, etc.
“I think it’s nice that you want to help, but there is nothing we can do,” my fiancé said.
I scoffed in frustration and replied, “I want to see what those bastards did. I want to see with my own eyes. I want to help. We’re just sitting here. Sucks. I’m going a little crazy here.”
On September 12th, 2001, there were probably many such conversations going on around the city.
It’s natural to want to help others in times of trouble. When we hear that a friend, neighbor, or family member is ill, one of the first questions we ask is, “How can I help? What can I do?” It is the normal reaction and one that binds us together. People want to help and feel useful. Being productive allows one to feel pride, accomplished and useful.
Since before the storm began, I have felt compelled to organize my home. I have been going through drawers, closets, and desks. Throwing out, straightening up, and sorting through. There is chaos outside my door. Everyday life has been thrown into tumult. However, in my home, I will keep order. I suppose you could call it a coping method. I’d like to think it is a good method – cleaning the house while not driving my family too crazy.
On Tuesday afternoon, I went into my backyard and gathered up the largest limbs that lay strewn about and placed them on the curb. Today, Thursday, I called the Office of Emergency Management a couple of times. I wanted to offer my services – a healthy, relatively strong body. No answer. I spent over an hour and a half raking leaves and gathering sticks. The trashcans are no longer in the garage, the basketball net is no longer on its side, and the outdoor furniture is back on the lawn. Our house looks like it would normally on a fall day.
We remain without power. School is closed for the children and me. My wife’s work place is closed. So, things for us are far from normal. Yet, many have it much worse and their normal will never be the same. I wish I could help.