The obvious choice for me this week, in my unending and inane quest to compare everything that happens in my life or in my brain to something I’ve seen happen in a comic, would be to touch on the devastation wrought upon New York and the Atlantic coast by Hurricane Sandy. Like maybe throw together some cutesy list of times in comics when New York City has been either without power or underwater or both, in order to try and convey how unbelievable these last few days have been here.
I could put Dark Knight Returns on there, with it’s power outage scene and Batman having to ride into battle on police horses (let’s not forget, Gotham is just another name for New York), and maybe Ultimatum, since New York flooded in that comic, even though I didn’t read it. I was also thinking about including J. Michael Straczynski’s harrowing 9/11 tribute in Amazing Spider-Man #36. I remember being a kid in Connecticut and working on a submarine base when 9/11 occurred, and feeling very frightened and confused about what the nation was turning into in the days and weeks after it, and that comic helped get a lot of those feelings out.
But as epic and monumental as these last few days have been, I feel like using this time to talk about comic books would only serve to trivialize the truly brave, heroic efforts that I have seen from the people in this area in response to the storm. I am talking about the FDNY firefighters, who, upon seeing a Chelsea building’s entire facade crumble to the ground, immediately decided to run into the building, rather than hide under a car and play dead, like I probably would’ve done. I am talking about the staff at the NYU Langone Medical Center who helped evacuate 215 patients, including 20 newborns, down the stairs no less, since the elevators were out, while holding flashlights, after the building lost power and backup generators failed. During the storm.
I’m talking about the city worker that a Colbert Report staff writer discovered in a tree during the storm with a FREAKING CHAINSAW cutting off a dangling branch before it fell and hurt someone.
These guys are the real heroes right now, and they deserve as much praise as we can give them. Beyond that, it’s the stories I hear everyday of people helping each other out to get the city back up and running that fill me with inspiration and hope. The commuters picking up people at bus stops and giving them rides into the city, or the local bars and restaurants partnering with Red Cross to allow patrons to donate and canned food, water and other provisions to the relief effort. The New York Marathon runners who, upon hearing that the marathon was cancelled this year, decided to donate their time in the city to the relief effort. Everyone is coming together to help where they can.
Two days after the storm, I had to take a taxi into work because the trains weren’t running. Everybody and their grandma was on the road trying to get into Manhattan, and I had agreed to help get my co-workers a ride if I was lucky enough to score a cab. The roads were hectic, and taxis were hard to find, but I finally managed to get one with a driver who was nice enough to drive me all the way out to the other side of Queens to pick up my co-workers and then double-back and drive us over the crowded bridge and into Times Square. He even charged us the flat rate instead of charging us individually.
It doesn’t sound like much, but that guy was actually doing me and my co-workers a huge favor, and he didn’t have to. He could’ve just said no, I don’t need to pick you up, I can find someone else in 10 seconds who doesn’t need such a long, ridiculous ride so I can get back here in a hurry and grab another fare (I mean, I’m assuming, I don’t really know how taxi drivers think beyond the inner monologues of Travis Bickle). But he didn’t. He helped us out and we appreciated it, and he knew we appreciated it and stuff like that is important.
In my mind, living here and seeing how this city came together right from the very beginning to help one another and protect one another, that to me is cooler than any superhero comic I could ever read. It goes without saying that these people are real life superheroes, people who care about their community and put themselves on the line in order to make sure those around them are taken care of, and it makes me ridiculously proud to be a part of this city with them in it.
Now, granted, there was still rudeness in the city. People were shoving and pushing and shouting and getting angry at each other and cramming themselves up against one another once limited service was restored to some of the subway lines. Random passersby on the sidewalk can still be dicks if you’re in their way, even though it’s their fault you got in the way. I can still get impatient and annoyed with people if they are walking like a moron or if they’re a tourist. But that stuff is miniscule compared to the groundswell of compassion that came in the wake of the Hurricane.
As I write this, we still have people on Coney Island who are digging through garbage for food, people in Breezy Point without homes, people in Staten Island who are without power as temperatures begin to plummet into the 20s. These guys need help. If you have a few bucks to spare, please make a donation to Red Cross and the disaster relief effort. You can even do a quick donation right now if you wanted to by texting “REDCROSS” to 90999, and $10 will be added to your next phone bill. It’s easy, it’s fast and every little bit helps. And you know Spider-Man would tell you to do it.