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Thanksgiving 2012 in New York, Post Hurricane Sandy: Gratitude, But Also Grief

4 Week Anniversary of Historic Storm Falls on Sunday of Thanksgiving Weekend


Something odd strikes you when you look at the November calendar: Thanksgiving 2012 falls almost on the first month anniversary of the arrival of Hurricane Sandy in the New York area, bringing with it high winds and extraordinarily high storm surges that flooded coastal areas of the city.

And so Thanksgiving 2012 will be unusual, a holiday to remember, not just for the normal fun, joy and Black Friday shopping ops of this harvest-season festival. More than any Thanksgiving since 2001, it will have a hangover of remembrance of the unbelievable disruption and loss brought, in 2012, by the pre-Halloween storm.

Outpouring of Thanksgiving Charity Predicted

Hurricane Sandy was a storm of unprecedented power that destroyed a huge swath of homes and swept away lives, beaches, buildings, some businesses, homes, boardwalks and memories in such favorite coastal getaways for Brooklynites and others as Breezy Point and the Rockaways, both in Queens. It flooded businesses and homes in Red Hook and DUMBO, in DUMBO.

And, due to the flooding by corrosive salt water into subway tunnels, it also created havoc with the tri-state electrical and rail and subway transportation infrastructure.

Hurricane Sandy was the tri-state area's first experience with the frightening long-term implications of global warming and rising sea levels. This aspect of the storm was noted immediately in its aftermath by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NY State governor Andrew Cuomo.

Because such great deal of damage was done, Thanksgiving 2012 is likely to be marked by an unusual level of charity, hot meals delivered to the homeless, holiday fundraisers, and an outpouring of holiday support for those who lost loved one, homes and communities in the storm.

Calendar Coincidence: Hurricane Sandy Blew in Days Before Halloween, a Month Ahead of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving falls on Thursday, November 22, 2012.

New York City started to shut down on the Sunday of Sandy's arrival, with closures of city parks and the mass transit system by 7 PM, October 28th, 2012.

That may not look like a month, but on the calendar it is four weeks.

The 4-week anniversary of storm-surge-fueled Hurricane Sandy falls on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, though the brunt of the storm was felt overnight and into Monday morning.

It's just a coincidence of timing. But for sure, Hurricane Sandy will flavor and spice New York City's Thanksgiving, 2012.

New Yorkers' Thanksgiving Glass Half Empty, Half Full

Millions of New Yorkers will find much to be grateful for this year —including things one might take for granted, such as electricity, heat and power. But the storm uprooted 40,000 city residents from their homes. Some may be rehoused by Thanksgiving- either back in their restored homes or in temporary housing. Nonetheless, many of Hurricane Sandy's victims will suffer the daily, logistical impact of Hurricane Sandy for months ahead.

Plus, the hurricane's psychological fall-out — which, depending on what one saw or lost, could include grief, depression, stress, anxiety and anger as well as stress-related physical ailments such as backaches and headaches — will be felt for some time ahead.

Even for affluent families, dealing with flooded basements and damaged belongings is stressful, expensive, and dislocating. What's sodden has to be removed and the flooded area cleaned of filth; whether clothing or kitchen appliances or furniture, things must be replaced. Structural damage and possible mold, and dealing with insurance all require time off from work.

Most of the people displaced by the storm were not affluent, however. The greatest number of New Yorkers displaced to emergency shelters a week after Hurricane Sandy were low income, and already vulnerable in one sense or another. Many lived in low-lying public housing in such locations as Red Hook Houses, which were mandatorily evacuated before the storm.

For these New Yorkers, it may take more work this Thanksgiving to claim the glass as half full.

8 Measures of Progress in Hurricane Recovery by Thanksgiving

Indicators of recovery from Hurricane Sandy be assessed will likely include:
  1. numbers of people still living in shelters and otherwise displaced or in temporary housing
  2. numbers of schools that were shut due to storm-related damage that have reopened
  3. numbers of households with restored electricity or still without it
  4. the extent to which subway lines have been fully restored
  5. the return to normal supplies of gasoline
  6. the processing of storm-related insurance and damage claims
  7. the reopening of small businesses in storm-affected areas
  8. the repair of cultural institutions affected by the storm

Thanksgiving may be an arbitrary point in time at which to measure of the hurricane recovery effort, but it's inevitable that the one month marker after the storm will be used to assess how far the relief effort has come. And anyway, Thanksgiving, with its themes of family and abundance, security and the giving of thanks, simply lends itself to these kinds of then-and-now comparisons.

For instance, Thanksgiving is one of America's most traffic-intensive holidays, as family members travel to get-togethers. This year, while hopes are high that gas supplies will be returned to normal by then, the weeks before Thanksgiving have seen two-and three-hour lines of drivers waiting to fill up their tanks, due to storm-related damage to normal supply chains.

Thanksgiving 2012: Will it be a time for grief or a time for gratitude? Likely, both. Let's hope it's a holiday in which all those who suffered losses from the storm can find food, support and comfort aplenty, and an appreciation of life itself. (Plus, need we mention, Brooklyn, that the Democrats won the 2012 national election....)

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