Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Vehicle for Good

 Editor's note: I am backlogged a bit. This entry entails the last week of October/first week of November...

Superstorm Sandy came to town and threw a wrench in my plans. I was suppose to drive up to NYC on the Monday before Halloween to do TV work for the New York Road Runners, but Amtrak wasn't running trains. So, I waited. 

By Wednesday trains still weren't running north of Newark so I got in my ca r and drove to the big city. That morning I got in an easy 9 miles. I was too busy on Thursday to run, but had a chance to get out on Friday for a jaunt along the Westside Highway. Central Park was shut down due to the storm damage, so running the wasn't an option. It was monotonous, but better than not running at all. I just wanted to get the run done with and never ran much slower than 6:25 pace for the duration of the 9 miles. I ran past 2:03 man Moses Mosop, who I had interviewed a day earlier, and we exchanged stoic pleasantries. 

That night the NYRR canceled the marathon and all hell seemed to break loose. On Saturday I took to Central Park, which had just opened, and witnessed thousands of runners hamster wheeling around the park's 10k perimeter. Again, I was short on time, so I pressed the pace and covered the loop in 37 minutes. As I approached the marathon's finish line, I saw a man weeping openly. Obviously, he would have to wait another year to get his chance in Gotham. It was a sad sight, but nothing like what I would bare witness to the next day.

On what would have been race day, I was tasked with joining a half dozen Lakota Indians from South Dakota on their quest to hand out food and supplies to grief-stricken people on State Island. In lieu of racing, the Lakota wanted to help and since they were a group we had been documenting from the beginning, we simply followed the story. We met in midtown and then drove to the southern tip of Manhattan before boarding the ferry, as everyone would have done on race day. It was 100% grassroots driven by social media - thousands of runners had answered the call. In a way, everyone was ready for such a mission, but instead of racing a marathon everyone  would instead be running to hard to reach areas with supplies on their backs not easily accessible by cars since fuel was very hard to come by. Once on Staten Island, I slipped out of my jeans and laced up my running shoes. Armed with a GoPro and a cell phone I took off with the masses towards some of the worst hit areas. Having grown up on Cape Cod, I've seen my fair share of hurricanes and tropical storms, but I had never seen anything like this: 

Beach parking lots were turned into aid stations. Hundreds of people were unloading and organizing diapers, water, foodstuffs, clothes and shoes.  Fire trucks and cop cars flying past with sirens blaring. Blocks and blocks of homes that had been gutted bay 14 foot wall of water. Some homes were leveled. No power to speak of. Cars filled with water. Cars without gas.

After handing out our supplies, we started helping some home owners shovel out waterlogged dry wall and insulation from their first level floors. Almost a week after the storm, water still flowed out from the rafters with ease. One volunteer found a foot long fish in someone's dresser. I worked to stay warm, since my jeans and jacket were in our production van somewhere on the way to where we were situated. Volunteers marched the streets and gave out hot soup and coffee. One home owner gave me a swig of Dewar's White Label and thanked me for coming. The Lakotas continued to schlep out debris and remarked how they knew a thing or two about "hard times" and were happy to assist in anyway they could. We had to drag them away insisting they had to get into our van as that was the only way off the island. 

It was a sobering day, for sure, but heartwarming at the same time. It was great to see runners using their legs as a vehicle to do good. 

The next day I drove back to Maryland and prepared to switch gears; on Tuesday Emily and I would be driving across the country.

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