It's been clear for a while that the coronavirus crisis in New York City is of a different magnitude than previous grievous traumas, notably the Sept. 11 attacks (2001) and Superstorm Sandy (2012).
Those were terrible, but concentrated in specific areas. They left us jittery, for quite a while. In fact, 9/11 was a faster, deeper, greater shock. People who were "missing"--all those poignant posters--were gone for good. Today, as the death toll mounts, too many days bring news of someone--a professional acquaintance, a friend of a friend--who has died.
But they inspired enormous solidarity, not merely of spirit, but also of action. After 9/11, enormous numbers of people contributed their time and energy, from going to Ground Zero (as a friend with construction skills volunteered), to simply delivering snacks to first responders. After the storm, individuals and organizations went to the affected areas to bring needed items.
Today, there has been a significant amount of volunteerism, notably younger people helping others with deliveries, while our essential workers--transit operators, sanitation staff, EMTs, medical workers, retail staffers, building porters--soldier on.
The rest of us are compelled to hunker down, some facing unusual stresses with families at home all day, others merely facing the ridiculous challenge of 1,500 calls (which one of my tour guide colleagues reported) to try to get unemployment insurance.
The point I'm getting to is this: advised to wear masks and "socially distance" ourselves from anyone other than the people we're "sheltering" with, we are not engaging closely with each other, and we are prevented from experiencing the city, even as we worry about our own health and that of our friends and families.
We must keep perspective: it's far less of a burden/challenge than that faced by people working at hospitals, or even supermarkets.
It's not an act of violence, but it's enormously wounding. As many New Yorkers have commented, the incessant sirens (here's an example) remind us of the continuing traumas our neighbors face, and there's no end in sight. I listened to a religious service this morning, and the minister had a poignant framing: the deaths mark the equivalent of four plane crashes a day.
I went out the other night, one of the few times I even leave the house, and took the photo below. For me, the notion of a "Brooklyn tour" has become extremely circumscribed.
The advice we've gotten is to practice "social distancing"--to stay inside and stay away from others, as much as practicable (while remaining in phone and virtual contact). So all tours are on hold for the foreseeable future.
It's sad to think that we can't walk around and explore together for a while. I'll be reading from my stacks of books about Brooklyn and New York City, watching videos, and listening to podcasts. (I may share some of them. Send questions!)
I hope to return to guiding ever replenished, recognizing how the COVID-19 crisis has wounded, reshaped, and (we all hope) ultimately revived the city and borough.
I wish everyone health and strength, and the ability to help their neighbors and friends as much as is practical.
Touring Brooklyn Blog
Observations and ephemera related to my tours and Brooklyn. Comments and questions are welcome--and moderated.