The huge oak was one of several that had come down at the same time on Lincoln Avenue, part of a micro-burst that had devastated the neighborhood of Cliff, Overlook, Dorchester and Lincoln. The trunk sliced into the façade of the house, into the bedroom. (If she had been in bed instead of the kitchen drinking tea, well, this story would have a very different ending.) A neighbor, whose house had also been struck by a tree, called the police. The Fire Department was soon there in the midst of the storm, convincing the 91-year-old resident into their SUV. Meanwhile, a tree had just come down behind them blocking the street, and the road ahead was blocked as well. The SUV drove over a lawn around a fallen tree, and brought her to safety. (Her spirit was unfazed – she explained that she was a Pearl
Harbor survivor and that this wasn’t so bad.)
For two weeks, the police chief was up at daybreak to greet the Con Ed crews that came to town, ensuring they had the escorts and coverage from the police crews to expedite their work. He crisscrossed town throughout the day, making sure that nothing got in the way of the Con Ed crews doing the work. If that meant delivering pizza so they wouldn’t break for too long, or directing traffic, he did it. The officers were everywhere as well, holding down their usual duties while providing escort and cover for the Con Ed crews. The Village Manager was often by his side, working to get the latest information, clearing away bureaucratic obstacles, getting on the phone to insist quietly but firmly on more crews, more attention.
The DPW crews were everywhere, it seemed, chain sawing and dragging and cutting trees out of the streets. They fit this work around the usual garbage pickups, trying to maintain an element of normalcy while restoring free movement. Many of the trees they handled were arguably bigger than they should have tackled, but they did so because people wanted their streets and lives back, and the power wires had to go back up.
The head of technology was available seemingly eighteen hours a day. Whenever I called to have the twice-daily updates posted, whether at noon or at night, he was there to do so within minutes and then record a verbal version of it for those who called in. When I needed a new email address to gather volunteers, it was set up in minutes. Other staff and the volunteer fire department knocked on doors to check on the elderly, set up a system to handle rooms offered by residents, and kept things humming in the uncertainty.
The library reopened on half-crew, providing a refuge for crowds without power. Some worked longer hours to cover absent staff and managed larger crowds than usual. The library was a quintessential safe haven. Eventually, full internet was restored and more than a few people ran their businesses from the library while without power.
And finally, the residents. You displayed a core of steel resiliency, and engaged in a thousand acts of generosity. Scores with power provided free rooms for those friends and neighbors without. Over forty families signed up to volunteer their homes to strangers. Truckloads of clothing and food departed for Brooklyn and Staten Island. Over $11,000 was raised for Project Share in just four days. Neighbors checked on neighbors, dinners by candlelight became something warm even though it was cold. People learned what they could handle, and even when in the dark, reached out to help others.
There’s no point in listing names of those deserving thanks – there would be hundreds. And that’s why Thanksgiving is easy this year. I’m thankful – we’re all thankful -- for the grace, the bravery, the good humor, the kindness, the generosity and dedication of our first responders, our volunteers, our houses of worship, and the friends and neighbors with whom we share this community. It can’t be a more grateful Thanksgiving.