Charles Smith

Older than I once was, younger than I will be

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Go Pound Sandy

It feels like 9/11 all over again without the fear of everything overhead.  Even the specter of an upcoming election is similar.    

Sandy was a life-changing event for all of us and sifting through our new world (a new age) will take fortitude, intelligence, compassion and courage.

As near as I can tell, close to 400 miles of coastline were devastated; homes destroyed, lives upended and maps forever changed.  One scary thing about this storm was that for the most part, the warnings were heeded, the evacuations accurate, the preparations appropriate; yet we still faced devastation. 

My family came out of this unscathed, lucky to live up the hill from the water and protected from the wind.  Our park (Prospect Park) has hundreds of downed trees and some infrastructure damage, but will recover relatively quickly.  Based on that, I spend the weekend trying to get out of our bubble and see the major impacts of Sandy that are so close. 

Saturday was a trip to Aviator rink, close to the Marine Park Bridge to the Rockaways for my son’s hockey practice.  We decided to fill up the car with water, batteries, flashlights and cleaning supplies and take them out to Breezy Point. 

Aviator was a fascinating scene.  It is a FEMA staging area for disaster response and houses 500 ambulance units from across the country: California, Missouri, Arizona, etc.  These were the units that helped evacuate the hospitals and are currently waiting to be deployed to areas as the power returns. 

Our next stop was the Silver Gull beach club in Breezy Point, the distribution area for donations of goods to Breezy Point.  We found way too many clothes (a common theme), not enough batteries, and just about enough water.  We then drove through Breezy and were not prepared for what we found.  Utter destruction.  Homes flattened, overturned, ruined and in the best cases, simply inundated with water. The water was so strong in places that windshields were shattered.  Then we drove past the fire remains; I’ve covered some fires in a previous life and this was the worst damage from a residential fire I’ve seen; 100 homes burned to the ground. I had my navigation system on and it was trying to get me to turn where there were no roads.  Horrifying. 

Sunday I decided to fill up another carload and drive to the Rockaways with shovels, bags, batteries and blankets.  While I met despair in Breezy Point, anger and fatigue were more the order of the day in the Rockaways.  Residents are eager to clean up and get moving, but don’t have the tools to do so.  I brought shovels in my load and was greeted at one point by a woman who started sobbing when she saw that I had brought shovels (she took 2).  

Like 9/11, the despair and anger is mixed with hope and determination.  There were volunteers waiting to help- I asked for help unloading my car and got 14 hands raised immediately.  My heart goes out to the victims and needs to be healed in the wake of this. 

My head goes to what I believe is going to be the Weather Age and I think we need the type of effort and inspiration that lead to the information age in which we currently live to attack the Weather Age. 

A few random ideas based completely on need, not on the way things actually work:
-A power grid that acts more like the Internet- finding a path for electrons that gets them there with multiple routes to the end. 
-A UPS like device for houses that could store power for short bursts safely. 
-A ham radio like structure for mobile devices that can connect people in a local area when power/destruction wipes out cellular grids. 
-Map systems that are not road based, but create topographies of structure locations that can guide people when the roads go away. 

The application layers that can be built on top of these systems are endless, and necessary for what I believe is a new age.   

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu