Social Media, Superstorm Sandy and I

As a still pretty recent transplant to the Bay Area, Facebook and Twitter kept me informed (and entertained) as a hurricane ravaged the mid-Atlantic.

Hope no one noticed, but I have been a little distracted this week.

Superstorm Sandy barreled into New York City—my city—on Monday and brought a record-breaking surge not seen since 1821.

During the storm's peak at high tide about 8:35 p.m. local time, cars floated like boats in the Lower East Side and the Con Edison 14th Street substation caught fire. This caused a massive power outage upward to 39th Street, outside of the utility's original plan to confine outages to the very southern tip of Manhattan.

There was a devastating and overwhelming six-alarm fire that destroyed more than 80 homes in Breezy Point, Queens.

On the northern tip of Manhattan—where there was still light—my brother posted on Facebook at about 9 p.m.:

Chris Cruz: My building was built in 1903 or so...It totally was swaying at a point. #Sandy is such a bully!

Okay. I grew more worried.

Across the East River and near the Long Island Sound in Queens, my friend, photographer Michelle Kawka - who lives in Whitestone (near Bayside Patch) - started to chronicle her evening on Facebook:

  • 7 p.m. This wind is loud. It's like a roaring train.
  • 7 p.m. Lights are flickering.
  • 8 p.m. Cable went out.
  • 10 p.m. Cable is back, listening to Bloomberg murder the Spanish language again.

After morning breaks, she posted an update and the news was sobering:

  • 7 a.m. We are Ok in Queens, the Hamptons, not so much. uh oh... Don't know yet, but my mother was crying so not good, not good at all.

The damage assessment of her family's Hampton cottage:

Michelle Kawka: Aluminum siding ripped off the front, all decks on the property gone, the outdoor shower is gone, and water got into the cottage. However, the cottage still stands thanks to the hurricane bands that my parents put during the renovation 10 years ago.

Unfortunately, one of the deceased in Queens from the storm—Tony Laino—had attended Michelle's high school, Saint Francis Prep, and graduated in 2000. He died when a tree hit his house.

Throughout the emergency, Mayor Michael Bloomberg kept everyone informed, but had it not been for my friends I would have missed the REAL news:

Tate Carrera: Forgive me, but is anyone else finding that Bloomberg's signer is really entertaining?

Then, a few minutes later:

Tanya Amaro: Yo, the sign language lady is HYSTERICAL for those of us who do not understand WTF she's saying! I read: while at home in this storm, smack it up, flip it, RUB it down O NOOO ... lmao ... she's killing me ... i mean, she is really into it! she could've been nominated for a sign language Tony ... lol

"The Sign Language Lady," is Lydia Callis and she quickly became a phenom on Tumbler. NY Magazine featured a video of her.

On Twitter (correct spelling of her names is Callis):

@pickering_mp RT @BradThor: Hurricane Sandy’s Breakout Star: Mayor Bloomberg’s Sign Language Interpreter nymag.com/daily/intel/20… h/t @mfme

And as New Yorkers we cherish our first responders because we know—and they've shown us—that they'll put their lives on the line for us.

@joshgreenman Thank you a million times to the NYPD, the FDNY and all the other, less heralded responders.

Another demonstration of the true spirit of New Yorkers; the 1010WINS AM radio transmitter went dead because of the storm—NYC's version of KCBS— and 92.3 WNOW loaned its FM radio transmitter for broadcast. That's how I stayed informed on Internet radio.

Overall many friends just felt grateful that at least, in their neck of the woods, things weren't as bad as they could have been.

Francis Lora: There is a lot of rebuilding to do now in NYC after Hurricane Sandy... beginning with New Yorker confidence and the City's psyche ... Time to rebuild from the inside out! Time to do what we do best during these times - time for us all to come together and help.

He lives with his family in Inwood, my old neighborhood. A few miles south in Washington Heights:

Marlene Rijo: Humbled and immensely grateful. That pretty much sums up how I feel today. Praying for all those who lost their homes, family, etc. during this craze. #sandy

Sandy was crazy and while we won't forget, we can rebuild and heal.

You can take the girl out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the girl.

-Claudia Cruz


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