Lessons From the Storm: We Must Continue Aiding Those in Need

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My mind is swimming on what I can write that will do some real good-to make the helping continue for those who lost everything to this monstrous natural disaster when these unprecedented losses are no longer big news. But first to say thanks to our political leaders for being up to this Herculean task, which won't let up anytime soon. And to the armies of people who continue to risk life and health, evacuating the stranded, keeping the peace as best they can, providing shelter, food and water, restoring transit and so much more. And to the record number of volunteers, including some marathon runners who used their training to run up and down stairs to give aid to the homebound. Bravo to those who struggled for hours to get to nonessential work, such as offering to help out in unscathed apartment houses like mine. You provided assurance to the anxious and alone, and got more residents interacting. That relates to a maxim found in the East Sixties Neighborhood Association Fall Bulletin: "When strangers start acting like neighbors ? communities are reinvigorated." They're safer and healthier, and civic and faith groups should make "good neighborliness" a primary long-term goal. But now priority attention must be paid to the countless thousands of victims of this unbelievably widespread and destructive natural disaster and those also threatened by pathological human nature, which terrifies and loots even in low-crime-area buildings and shops. In times of disaster, such dastardly deeds should be considered acts of treason. Although protecting public safety is government's first duty, was the hurricane-spawned lawlessness assailed in the last days of the election campaigns? There's no greater good than making peace on the home front a bipartisan priority with election winners and losers working together. Everyone wins if they do. And let's revive faith group protests, like Monsignor Harry Byrne did in high-crime times against the violence that threatened his own congregation; we can at the very least revive his "First Civil Liberty" essay protesting the widespread threat of crime. The standing-room-only crowds in places of worship seen after 9/11 did not reappear this time, although some regulars were doing recovery work at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church last Sunday. Faith groups help, in general, far more than most people who walked right by the church are aware. I went needing comfort and strength-and yes, giving thanks for being spared. And I was righteously angry to learn later that nearby Central Park was "awash with tens of thousands of runners from all over the world running around the loop and marathon levels of spectators too." Again, those who joined the recovery effort are the winners. Ah, and bless the countless who share their homes with the new homeless. Long overdue in the myriad style, home and food sections and programs, not to mention our formal education system, are lessons in communication skills to help "the getting along"-in general. Hallmark Channel dropped reruns of The Waltons, about the only TV fare role-modeling such behavior, and where people took helping their neighbors for granted. Related is the Museum of Natural History's exhibit of how New Yorkers coped in World War II. If ours was called "the greatest generation," it's due to a Waltons-type ethos then found in ethnic and faith groups nationwide-not to mention movie and radio fare. And, if ever something needs reviving, it's that in our primary educators-TV and music and now cyberspace. But now the most immediate and ultimate need is helping storm-decimated communities and individuals survive and revive-it can be done if enough of us try. Keep trying as never before.

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