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At the Park Slope Armory, volunteers have come out in impressive numbers. They must know how lucky they are to live in an area that remained relatively unscathed. What they find in the Armory is heart-breaking. As David Shaw told me, the huge space is full of make-shift cots, populated by people from the Rockaways, who had to be evacuated. Most of the people are old and many of them are in poor health. Some are in wheel chairs, some use oxygen tanks, some get around with walkers, and some stay seated on their cots. All face the same direction, they stare ahead at the wall, up at the vaulted ceiling. Some of the women who are there socialize with each other. Many of the elderly men sit there, stoic. There aren't many visitors, but that's to be expected, I'd imagine, as cell phone service is spotty and the extended families of these men and women are quite possibly dealing with their own problems and power outages.
But where will these people go? Their homes are gone. The Rockaways are full of New Yorkers who have real roots here. Are they supposed to be relocated, like people were after-Katrina? Have we as a country moved forward from Katrina and learned how to deal with a refugee crisis within our borders? What's the narrative arc here? Is there any possibility of a happy ending?
Narrative arc. Yeah. I mention that because it's what we all want, isn't it? We all want to hear about the resilience of New York, we all want that singular NYC community spirit to be on display as we recover and work toward the future. And, don't get me wrong, I believe in all of that. I believe that this city is resilient and I believe that it will recover. But I also believe that there are people—and maybe some of them are the infirm ones who are housed in the Park Slope Armory right now—who might not be able to recover. Who will disappear from the narrative. Who will be forgotten as we focus on the lights being restored to downtown Manhattan. Who are not as important as the safety of a baby walrus. Is there room for all of these story lines? I think so, yes. But I also think that we are moving incredibly rapidly past the stories of the people who are suddenly homeless and hopeless.