The sky looked like lead and seemed to hang lower than usual. WQXR, New York’s classical radio station, announced evacuations in the city and a possible shut down of public transport. This didn’t sound good. Better get going, to get some things together. At the store, I met Vianel, my landlady, who asked whether I had candles and batteries and everything I might need during the expected blackout. I was still using up the batteries I had bought for last year’s storm. We hadn’t lost power then, but we had no water for almost a week. Fortunately, I went on vacation the following day, but the memory of the little I had experienced was enough to make me schlepp eight gallons of drinking water. In the course of doing that I sprained my back and bruised my lip, hitting it against the handle of the luggage cart, when I attempted to carry a box with four containers up the stairs in a single effort.
By noon, I had stocked up on supplies. News were out that the subway and buses in New York City would shut down at 7pm. The choir director sent an e-mail announcing that the concert at 5pm would be shortened and sung without a break, to finish at 6:30 sharp. I could walk from East 80th and Lexington to Port Authority on 42nd and 8th Avenue, I do that most of the time anyway. So far, New Jersey Transit promised to run throughout the evening, but I wouldn’t catch a bus until 8 pm.
- work on the computer
- make phone calls to Germany
|The back yard in the rain|
Monday started rainy and gray. The trees looked surprisingly still, except for occasional strong gusts of wind. How do you manage to get the information you need and and keep you mental balance by staying out of the way of the hysteria promoted by the mass media? I found a government website with a weather chart that looked very scientific and objective. Unfortunately, I was unable to decode it, I only understood that the situation was serious.
|The rain is splashing against the windows|
I packed an emergency bag - most important, next to the documents: things to occupy the mind, my pocket score of the Well-Tempered Clavier and a recording of it, my favorite mystery, an audio book, the disc player, batteries, some crafts materials. I convinced Siddhartha that you have to carry an ID in times of emergency and put the collar with his tag on him. It shines in the dark, and it occurred to me that this made sense - can you imagine trying to find a black cat at night?
|Siddhartha on storm watch|
We waited for the storm. More phone calls, work on the computer, practicing. Fortunately, the piano does not run on batteries. The rain started to pound on the windows forcefully, making it hard to concentrate. The darkness outside made me feel completely at the mercy of the elements. It was good to see that the neighbors‘ lights were still on. Around 7:30 pm strong gusts of wind were shaking the house. I stopped practicing, and began to wrap the piano and the keyboard with the tarps I bought for the hurricane last summer. It’s hard to tell if it would do anything, if a window breaks or the roof takes off, but at least it gives me the feeling that I’ve done everything I can.
|Siddhartha checks whether it's fastened|
|"Yes, I think that will hold"|
Staying away from the windows is wishful thinking, my desk that has the internet connection is right by the window, so is the sofa and the bed. I had positioned flash lights and candles in every room, and I tried to remember where they were. The wind had changed direction, it was howling and pounding against the house. In the dark of the night it was good to hear voices downstairs. I wondered whether Jose and Vianel would mind me joining them and their family if I got too scared. They have two dogs, though, and we might get a storm of a different kind if I I joined with Siddhartha, even if he’s in his carrier.
|"I've worked hard, now I need to rest. Who cares if there's a storm."|
In my apartment the power, phone and internet had stayed on! News of the devastation in Manhattan south of 34th street and the coastal areas of New Jersey started to make the round, and I asked myself what I had done to have gotten away. Even though nothing was wrong I felt as if I’d been run over by a truck. I tried to call a couple of people, but wherever the power was out - and that seemed to be the case in most places - you couldn’t reach anyone.
It was Tuesday, my teaching day in Maplewood. Schools were closed, but since we had power, I offered my students a choice, to come for a lesson or schedule a make-up later. Of course, I invited everyone to recharge computers or simply hang out and warm up. Most people had already found opportunities to do that - at the library, the work place, friends, relatives or neighbor’ houses who had electricity.
Wednesday in the late afternoon I finally left the house. I had assumed that the writer’s group at the Montclair public library that I go to every other week hadn’t met - and if they had, there was no way to get there - public transport wasn’t running. It was eerie outside, grey skies, and temperatures were dropping. My first impression: last year, after the hurricane in the summer and the ice storm, our street looked much worse, with branches and debris blown all over the place. Just around the corner, I found a different situation. Two houses had been hit by big trees that fell over. Behind our back yard, the gym of St Andrew Kim‘s church got a hit as well, by a large tree that split down the middle.
|Fallen trees on Woodside Road|
|Road block on Parker Avenue|
|Storm damage, Woodside Road. The trees just fell over.|
|Storm damage, St. Andrew Kim Church|
Groups of young people were roaming the streets with nothing to do. The International Supermarket was closed, the one on Irvington Avenue, just two blocks away from where I live, was open! Not that I needed anything, but it felt good to know that supplies hadn’t been cut off altogether.
The store seemed to be running on a generator, the lighting was dim. There was a strange smell that I had never noticed before. Only canned goods were on display, no fresh or frozen products. I was reminded of the winter I spent in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1992/93.
|The "Extra" Market on Irvington Avenue|
Three days after the storm, Manhattan looked surprisingly normal north of 42nd street. Due to the defective crane that I’m sure everybody’s seen on TV and in the newspaper, the neighborhood around Carnegie Hall was closed off. Deserted streets in Manhattan on a weekday appeared more sensational to me than their cause. Central Park was closed, but my favorite coffee stand was open. I treated myself to a coffee and took some time to meditate about the sight of the crane behind the Maine Monument at Columbus Circle before going to my piano lesson.
|The damaged crane|
|Maine Memorial and damaged crane at Columbus Circle|
|Ferrara's Cafe, Columbus Circle/Central Park|
|Nobody knew about the storm yet when the Met programmed this opera.|
|Restaurants on Columbus Avenue|
As every Sunday, people were walking their dogs and enjoy breakfast outside. Enough people made it to choir so we could sing. As far as we knew, everybody was ok, even if they hadn’t been able to come. Gas was rationed, limiting mobility. Some had lost power and moved in with friends, or they had left the city in order to be with family members in New Jersey and New York State.
|Marathon cancelled? We're running anyway.|
|Sunday morning dog meet in Central Park|
Solange man sich an einem warmen und sicheren Ort aufhalten kann, finde ich Schneestürme eigentlich ein recht friedliches Naturereignis. Es fallen Massen von Schnee in kurzer Zeit, es wird sehr still, und alles bleibt stehen. Der heraufziehende Hurrican war von anderer Qualität. Mit einem unversorgten jungen Kater zu Hause wollte ich unbedingt zu Hause sein. Also rief ich in der Kirche an, sagte Bescheid, dass ich leider nicht mitsingen könnte, und begann zu überlegen, was ich unbedingt machen sollte, solange wir noch Strom hatten:
- ein schönes warmes Essen kochen
- am Computer arbeiten
- Telefonanrufe nach Deutschland machen
Davon machte ich eine ganze Reihe, versicherte meinen Freunden, dass ich nicht an der Küste wohne, und in meiner Wohnung im 1. Stock keine Überflutungsgefahr besteht - es sei denn, das Dach bekommt ein Leck oder fliegt davon. Sonntags abends um 6 ging ich zum letzten Mal nach draussen. Es wurde dunkel und fing an zu nieseln.
|Blick aus dem Kuechenfenster in den Hinterhof|
|Der Regen trommelt gegen das Wohnzimmerfenster|
|Siddhartha haelt Ausschau nach dem Sturm|
|Siddhartha ueberprueft, ob alles gut verzurrt ist.|
|Ich habe gearbeitet, jetzt muss ich mich ausruhen, Sturm oder kein Sturm.|
|Umgestuerzter Baum, Woodside Road|
|Sturmschaden, St Andrew Kim Kirche|
|Strassensperre, Parker Avenue|
Der Supermarkt wird normalerweise fast nur von Afro- oder Lateinamerikanern besucht, die den Grossteil der Bevölkerung in meinem Viertel ausmachen. Ich habe noch nie soviele weisse Kunden in dem Laden gesehen wie in der Woche nach dem Sturm, als die Geschäfte in Maplewood Village wegen des Stromausfalls geschlossen waren.
|Der Supermarkt laeuft auf Notstrom|
|Manhattan, gesperrte Strasse|
|Manhattan, defekter Baukran|
|Kran und Maine Memorial|
|Ferraras Cafe am Columbus Circle/Central Park|
|Bei der Programmierung dieser Oper an der Met (Der Sturm) hatte man bestimmt noch nicht an den Hurrican gedacht|
|Restaurants an der Columbus Avenue|
Nach dem Unterricht ging ich zu Fuss hinüber auf die East Side. Die 79. Strasse führt auf einer tiefergelegten Trasse quer durch den Central Park. Normalerweise ist es etwas unheimlich, ein wenig benutzter schmaler Gehweg führt an steilen Felswänden entlang. An diesem Donnerstag waren Menschenmassen unterwegs, es sah aus wie die letzte Trainingsrunde vor dem Marathon - der am nächsten Tag abgesagt wurde.
|Central Park, Hundetreff|
Wie jeden Sonntag führten die Leute ihre Hunde spazieren oder sassen im Cafe. Der Chor in der Kirche war leicht dezimiert, aber singfähig. Soweit bekannt, waren alle wohlauf, auch wenn sie nicht kommen konnten. Die Benzinrationierung setzte der Bewegungsfähigkeit Grenzen. Einige hatten keinen Strom und waren zu Freunden gezogen, andere waren unterwegs um Familienmitgliedern in New Jersey und New York State auszuhelfen.
Nachmittags traf sich die Vorspielgruppe der Leschetizky Gesellschaft bei einem der Mitglieder, der im 58. Stock eines Hochhauses beim Lincoln Center wohnt. Standardfrage beim Betreten der Wohnung: “ Lou, wie hast du den Sturm überstanden?” Auf dieser Höhe bemerkt man sogar bei normalem Wetter ein leichtes Schwanken des Gebäudes. “ Es war beängstigend, das Haus hat regelrecht geschaukelt. Ich war seekrank und bin hinunter in die Lobby gegangen. Wir hatten Angst, dass der Strom ausfällt, während man gerade im Aufzug ist, aber alles ist gut gegangen.”