Melissa, my Monday yoga instructor, likes to start by surveying the class: she asks us to share our names and mention any injuries or requests. This week, the second day the YMCA was open since Hurricane Sandy, she added: “tell us where you are right now.” She explained how practicing yoga doesn’t mean you’re always calm or never have a bad day. She admitted that she’d been taking out her frustration by arguing with her husband, as she tried to keep her two young sons busy and maintain household equilibrium without electricity and heat.
Many of the respondents were still without power; some were living with friends, some were just grateful to be able to get to the Y, which had welcomed everyone from the community to shower and charge phones and laptops. Going to the Y gives a good idea how people are coping as the town slowly starts to repair downed lines and remove fallen trees.
Tuesday, I went to an abs class. It’s a quick 20 -minute blast; I didn’t have time for yoga. Spin follows abs, which I don’t yet do despite being told it would be good for my outdoor cycling. Even those without power at home were talking about the condition of their shore houses. (in New Jersey, the beach is called the shore.) What a difference a day makes.
Today, Dana, the Wednesday teacher, talked about gratitude and grace. And guilt. I listened. It’s hard not to feel guilty when I unroll my mat next to someone who came to class after spending the night in the very same room. With the drop in temperatures, the Y has become the shelter, replacing the middle school that opened for students after six days. Many people are entering their 10th day without power.
Crews of utility workers, like army battalions, have been deployed from as far away as Illinois. Welcomed as if they’re liberating a village from tyranny, they’re working long days. A five-minute drive into town takes nearly 30 as I negotiate closed roads. A visit to the local grocery store depicts how dependent we are on deliveries. The entire prepared and frozen food sections were cordoned off by yellow hazard tape, the food, past its sell by date, condemned. Yet there’s a shortage of dumpsters, so the cases remain full, the food further spoiling.
There are no commuter trains to Manhattan, only buses during rush hour. I usually travel to New York City after the early morning, so now can’t go at all. New Jersey Transit’s website says the line “remains suspended until further notice.” I can’t say I’m encouraged.
I stayed up way too late watching the election returns and while the political commentators claim there’s no clear mandate, that we remain a nation divided, I disagree.
People come together in a crisis. There are shelters and food kitchens, coat drives and donation centers. We take in our family and friends; we share rides, we combine classrooms from one school into another.
We can create bi-partisan partnerships to rebuild the shoreline, to increase mass transit, to take climate change seriously, to fix the economy, provide health care and shelter, and bolster education. That’s the mandate. It’s crystal clear.
As President Obama said, “We’re all in this together.”