Originally written for Bleacher Report
Have you ever been through a major hurricane?
The howling wind and the pounding rain are just the beginning. A frightening storm gives way to a horrific aftermath.
Eerie darkness permeates the room at night. With no electricity, candles and flashlights can only do so much. The city is silent.
After Hurricane Andrew, I lay in that haunting atmosphere, wondering if things would ever be the same. We were fortunate in the aftermath of that storm. Our family was safe and sound. My grandmother regained power just a few days later. We had food and water.
Aside from getting a nasty stomach flu, I was insulated from it all. The devastation surrounding us was incomprehensible to me as a child. It seems to be that way to some New Yorkers today in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Despite the ravaging wind and water Sandy brought to New York City this week, Mayor Bloomberg and race organizers have decided to hold the annual New York Marathon.
The hubris of holding the New York Marathon this weekend is staggering even by New York standards. What is the point of holding an event like this, one that needs a great deal of manpower and hundreds of generators that could be used to help those still without power? What about all that bottled water that could go to families who are forced to drink potentially tainted tap water as they wait for help?
Lisa McGarry, a 42-year-old New Yorker, is running the Marathon this weekend. Here is what she had to say to the NY Daily News:
Running is my outlet. Some people express their emotions and bring people together in difficult times through artistic talents. Some people have skills to help save lives, or to fix infrastructures. But I am a runner. It’s what I know how to do. After September 11, I ran across the Brooklyn Bridge to the WTC daily. Three weeks ago, a friend was killed in Afghanistan. His death hit me hard. It was dealing with that grief that I realized I had to do the only thing I know how to do…run.
I fix Staten Island or the Rockaways. The only thing I can do is run. It’s what I can do show support for my city. To show my support for my friend who died in Afghanistan. This is my city, too. And this is what I do.
I also trust that the city will not put any lives at risk, by holding the marathon. We did it in 2001 while the city was still burning. The rest of the city is getting back to normal. And I truly think it will bring in business to much needed areas. Lower Manhattan has lost a week of business. I work in SoHo, and been able to go back to work. I am so grateful that my job is now salaried. I am sure the stores of Soho will be happy to have all those European tourists back shopping.
Longing for normalcy so soon after this disaster is an incredibly needy sentiment for a city with a reputation for toughness. Yes, they held the Marathon as part of a much-needed catharsis after the events of 9/11, but it was nearly two months after the tragic attack on New York.
Should we hold a race that requires the attention of thousands of officials and volunteers, not to mention countless resources that needy New Yorkers could use right now, because of a misguided plea for normalcy?
It is nice to know Ms. McGarry will get a chance to have an “outlet” along with, perhaps, hundreds of other runners while thousands sit in squalor and darkness just miles away. Perhaps she can lend some of her body heat to those without power as a cold front moves in this weekend.
To be fair, many New Yorkers do not agree with the decision to hold the Marathon. Some runners are boycotting the race, and hotels are turning away others while they house the displaced.
Still, the right thing to do would be to postpone or cancel the race, even at this late stage.
People died in this storm. Houses burned down. Staten Island was still cut off from the rest of the world until today. The subway system could be in shambles. Long Island is a desolate place today, its residents all but abandoned.
But this is New York. The show must go on, casualties be damned.