Thursday

Surviving Sandy with “Old” Media


The past week has been a sobering lesson in what works and what doesn’t work during a disaster. My personal experience has been nothing compared to those who suffered grievous losses, some still displaced. It is heartbreaking and we hope that conditions improve immediately. There are many ways to volunteer and contribute 

We think we are connected all the time. We comfort ourselves that with all of our virtual and technological devices we can keep in touch any time any place. And with the ability to access the Internet, we can get the news easily and effortlessly no matter what catastrophe befalls us.  Well throw that idea out the window. 

We lost our electricity at 815p on Monday night. About that time, as my AT&T iPhone was half charged, I could call family and friends to give and receive updates. But the battery drains quickly so I shut it off to save it for the next day. I shouldn't have. The next day I had about half a battery charge left but there was no signal in all of lower Manhattan so there was effectively no service. Isolated on an upper floor of an apartment building as neighbors left in droves, it is remarkable that one can be in the middle of a city but suddenly realize that help was just a little too far away should we need it immediately. 

I am so happy that I am married to a luddite - someone who still has a flip phone and who listens to his transistor radio every morning. Those vital items were our only access to the outside world at home for the week since Hurricane Sandy hit. All of our state of the art devices failed.

Our bundled Time Warner service - including the landline which we keep for emergencies- went out with the electricity.  I guess that "landline" phone will be good for any emergency as long as we don’t lose our electricity. 

My husband’s Verizon flip phone worked beautifully and held its charge through the first four days. He also started to receive text updates from Con Edison as soon as the electricity went out .... which my smartphone never did. 

His trusty transistor radio kept us informed, provided a modicum of entertainment and helped us pass the time when there was not enough light to read. And we subscribe to print magazines. We could catch up on news from print publications and even read all the daily delivered newspapers that our absent neighbors left behind. 

Vittorio, the owner of La Laterna, a local coffee shop on Mac Dougal Street, offered free phone charges from his restaurant's generator. A lifesaver! His restaurant turned into a lively beacon of community in an otherwise dark neighborhood. "Connection" in times of catastrophe takes on an entirely different meaning.

While we worship all the sophisticated and fascinating things that the newest devices provide, when the chips are down, it is the older media and forms of connection that will be there for us. In fact, it may be our only link to the world when disaster strikes.

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