Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Across the Street

     It's like crossing into a war zone. But the line is definite. On one side, you have normalcy, power, and everyday life. Maybe the sidewalk is a little wet or there are a few pieces of trash. But less than 20 feet away, nothing is recognizable. The stores are dark. Many are boarded up to ward off looters but a few are open, offering a bit of food and water to passing cops and marines. Just a few steps across the street and you're in a different place in the same city in New York. It's the normalcy everyone is headed towards.

     You can see the people leaving in hoards. They travel with their suitcases, bags of water and food, flagging down cabs, waiting for buses, or giving up on it all and walking. Common courtesy is out the window. Old women and little boys fight to get onto the few buses that are coming by. Parents come in fleets to collect their children from the powerless dorms. No one knows what's happening. There's no internet, no television, newspaper stands are knocked down and vandalized: all they know is they need to get out. They're leaving the darkness, the no running water, the cold and the dead air.

     The streetlights are broken. Some traffic guards direct the busiest sites, but most are left to their own devices. People run across the street in spaces between the mass exodus uptown. Some streets are lined with military trucks and cars. Cop cars race every which way and ambulances tear through the dangerous intersections. Sidewalks are littered with garbage bags and generators. The smell of rotting trash and dirty people permeates the walls and seems to stick with you wherever you go. Walking down the street with a cup of coffee is like holding the key to Atlantis because there's little supplies left. The water and food everyone has stocked up on is wearing down. They can walk uptown and fight their way through hundreds of people with the same thoughts to get whatever sustenance is left, but they'll have to come back eventually.

     Students here have been asked to pack what they can and leave. They arrive at the student center and are handed a yoga mat, sandwich, and water bottle and told to have fun. Young men and women who were friends are fighting for an available outlet. But where else are they going to go?
     It's two different worlds. All you have to do is cross the street.

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