I spent the morning prepping food that was cooked and delivered to points around the city where residents still had no power and no heat and hot meals were a rare treat. The two guys in charge of the kitchen and dining room where dozens of volunteers were cutting veggies or making sandwiches -- including 30 fifth and sixth graders from a city program -- were good-humored and incredibly organized and kept us all working efficiently.
In the afternoon, after doing a few more interviews, I headed out to Far Rockaway, Queens, in a carload of women to help in a distribution center in Ocean Village, a low-income housing development. The drive out took a half hour, but two hours on the return to Brooklyn (worst traffic jam maybe I've ever been in). We passed miles of flooded out cars on the main drag's median strip, waiting for insurance adjusters to do their thing before they could be towed away and junked. Also saw several boats marooned on the pavement; shades of New Orleans and the bayou after Katrina.
I found that same intense energy that Dan had in Sabrina, a resident of Ocean Village who was in charge of distributing all the supplies donated through Occupy Sandy. Although still without power and heat after more than two weeks, she seemed remarkably upbeat. Despite serious health problems she said she put "on the back burner," she said she gets up every day and goes to the distribution center. "When I wake I'm like, okay, Let's get it going. Like your coffee, you know what I mean," sh." And she laughed. I asked her if she thought her life would ever be the same, and she said no, "because somebody saw something in me" and called her to take on leadership. Click here for a story for WIN (Workers Independent News) featuring both Dan and Sabrina.
That's not to say that tempers weren't short at times. But things seemed to be running remarkably smoothly, and all on volunteer energy. I interviewed Pablo Benson-Silva, the site coordinator at St. Jacobi, who said he'd been involved with Occupy Wall Street from Day One (Sept. 17, 2011 to be exact) but that Occupy Sandy had brought in a much larger group of people. Click here to listen to/read his explanation of how Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Sandy are both "disaster relief."
I've been in touch with Sabrina since she got her power back, at least by generator. She's now confronting the letdown after 18 days of crisis. There'll be more to say about this in future posts, like what kind of mental health services are going to be available for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and New Jerseyites in need?