Anna Breslaw’s 600-Word Sprint: On New York, Facebook and the Superstorm

There is nothing like an active disaster to bring out uncommon acts of common courtesy.

power strips in new york city after hurricane sandy

Good Samaritans with power strips trended up on social media in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. (Photo: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

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By the time the number of years you’ve lived in New York could make up (or surpass) the age of a toddler, you’re well acquainted with the fizzy aperitif of panic and preparation before a projected natural disaster. Having seen multiple false alarms, you’re also duly skeptical that anything is actually going to happen just because some weatherman Tweeted about it.

Nevertheless, you make it to the store at the last minute and buy some water and crackers and a flashlight and cat food. Or—as I spent last year’s overhyped Hurricane Irene—you go to a friend’s house in Chelsea and watch all of Twin Peaks and sleep far away from the windows.

Obviously, in the case of Monday night, the event was actually of severe magnitude—85 dead and rising, millions still without power, possibly $50 billion in financial losses (figure is still in estimates)—and the Tri-State Area will undoubtedly be dealing with the consequences for months. In short, I thought it was going to be like this, but it was like this.

MORE: Hurricane Sandy Recovery: How to Help

However, along with the damage incurred by the storm comes a camaraderie you don’t usually see around these parts. And, because we live in the future, it’s primarily communicated via social media.

Photos of Good Samaritans placing power strips outside their houses for strangers to charge their phones are making the rounds, and people with power are inviting their Facebook friends over for food and Wi-Fi.

“We are ok” was the most-shared term on Facebook as of 10 a.m. Eastern time on Tuesday morning. Others in the Top 10 included “power” (lost power, have power), “made it” and “safe.”

Photos of Good Samaritans placing power strips outside their houses for strangers to charge their phones are making the rounds, and people with power are inviting their Facebook friends over for food and Wi-Fi.

At the grocery store Monday afternoon, a woman and I nervously chatted in the endless checkout line about unperishable almond milk for her baby—just in case. I held her place in line as she went to grab it and asked if she could get me two Greek yogurts. This may not seem terribly significant anywhere but New York, where talking to strangers sans inebriation is tantamount to immediate exile from the borough.

(Of course, one can’t help but wonder what the sociological response would have been if—God forbid—it had been even worse. Just think of every major disaster anecdote or film you know: There's the looting scene, someone smashing a TV set into the window of a store, and people being trampled to death in a rush, which has happened in far less dire conditions than these. Fortunately, there’s no need to think too hard about it this time.)

As for those in Sandy’s path fortunate enough not to incur any major individual loss, we’re basically just left with a whole lot of rebuilding and an abiding sense of plain weirdness: The rumors of alligators swimming in the streets of a decimated Atlantic City, for one thing. This shirtless dude jogging through the storm with a horse mask on. This new temporary subway map, reminding us that even the steadfast MTA system is mortal. And so on.

Nevertheless, we persevere; at least, as much as we can without leaving our borough.

And if anyone wants to come over, I have power and crackers.

Do you have power and crackers, or anything comparable, to share? Leave it in COMMENTS.

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