04 November 2012


Living on the third floor, having no elevator access was little more than inconvenience, though pitch-dark stairwells were a danger.  I live in a 20-story building, and some of my neighbors, unable to navigate the stairs, were trapped for the duration of the outage.  Residents of the building checked on each other, helping where we could.

One night, I heard someone fall in the stairwell.  Thumpthumpthumpthumpthump, a cry, a couple of moans.  I listened for a call for help, and when none came, burrowed back under the covers, knowing I should have gone to help.


Before the blackout, I was in the midst of my worst asthma attack in three years.  I was using a nebulizer four times a day -- a machine that plugs into the wall to help deliver medication mixed with saline solution into the lungs in mist form.  With the power out, I switched to a metered dose inhaler to get the medication.

The next day, the attack finally broke.

I could climb those two flights of stairs.  I could walk the neighborhood and look at the damage.  I could bike to Union Square, where they were supposed to be giving out dry ice for the refrigerator.  I could go to the fire hydrant at the corner, fill buckets, carry them half a block and then up the stairs.


Official help?  Hard to find.  Yesterday, after power had been returned to most of the area, I saw national guard members distributing bottled water on Grand Street.  A few days ago, I passed a truck on East 10th Street with oatmeal and bread.  There were rumors of food in other places, but no system to inform people what was available, and where.

The New York Times posted updates with information about infrastructure, noting "tap water is safe to drink."  Since we had no tap water in our building, that seemed a bit of an insult, along with the Empire State Building, lit up like fireworks beyond the dark buildings of the neighborhood.

Facebook was sometimes the only source of information.  It's how we found out about the dry ice, though the official notice failed to mention times for distribution, so I made my first trip to Union Square before the truck arrived, and my second after it had run out.