By Jada Gomez-Lacayo
New York City is the center of the world. Can I prove this? Not hardly, but I’m a New Yorker, born and raised, and geography lessons are not this great city’s strong suit. However, I can prove that New York is the place where people come to build dreams, for the promise of a better life, for that Carrie Bradshaw career, and because in all sincerity, it’s just a dope place to live. Even superheroes spend a lot of time defending it on the big screen. Spiderman fought crime on Jackson Heights’ mean streets, Bruce Wayne kept Gotham safe at night as Batman. And although these beloved crime fighters are fictional, when events as devastating as Hurricane Sandy wash ashore, the fast-talking abravise New Yorkers shed their tough exteriors and reveal superhuman hearts. Maybe Marvel was really on to something.
We’re certainly not known for being the gentlest zip code. Walk around this city with rose-colored glasses and you’re bound to get trampled on like a rose garden at recess. Our New Yorker edge is just a means to survive. But an Empire State of mind is the only mindset I know, and I’ve seen our heart kick in when it counts. While I’ve grumbled when someone pulls the emergency cord on the subway and causes a delay that makes me late for work, I’ve witnessed a woman lift up a young girl who fainted from exhaustion. I grew up hearing stories about the ’60s blackout, when my grandaunt fell on the subway tracks, and a kind stranger lifted her up and lead her down the dark tunnel to safety. And on our darkest day, I experienced pure kindness when an NYU student gave out hugs outside a freshman dorm on 9/11, simply because it was all he had at that moment.
As the East Coast deals with Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath, the New York heart is abound in the national media. First responders, medical staff, and even politicians are now real life heroes. And they’ve had no time to bask in the accolades or the spotlight, because they are doing what superheroes do: going above and beyond the call of duty for the greater good. And also like most superheroes, they feel like the fuss is unwarranted, because they’re simply doing their jobs. When backup generators went out at NYU Langone Medical Center, nurses carried out newborn babies, cradling the city’s littlest patients. A young New Jersey girl asked her parents to open up their homes to strangers so that they could simply recharge their cell phones and find warm shelter. If you’re looking for a real life Superman, just check out Cory Booker’s Twitter timeline. He answers Newark residents’ questions personally, often showing up at their doorstep with assistance.
There’s also something simply to be said about God’s simple grace. While neighborhoods are completely underwater, other towns were relatively spared. Power lines and trees missed cars by mere inches, gently hovering as not to even leave a mark.
For myself, and for those affected much more deeply by this disaster, New York is a home that is tough enough to withstand anything. It’s difficult to look at pictures of Coney Island underwater, or my first apartment submerged beyond recognition, or a barren South Street Seaport. I’m not used to Red Cross benefits for my city. And although people adopt New York for a season or two in search of dreams, this is my home and reality for years to come.
New Yorkers are impatient. We’re fast talkers, drive the best bargains, and are the home of the best… well, everything. But when we need to, we are the strongest family, and no one gets left behind. We’ll rebuild. And we’ll be stronger than before.
*Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.