Franklin Delano Roosevelt, aka The Kit. Born in March 2005, died May 4 of this year.
Entered the world an abandoned runt, umbilical cord still attached, eyes yet to develop, left to freeze under the back deck of a south Denver home on a snowy March afternoon. Raised with love, bottle fed, incubated, nurtured like a child.
Started out in Colorado, came of age in New York. Died in Seattle (fell from a tree).
The only animal I ever knew through the entire course of his life. He wasn't mine, but I was there through his first months, was his cat sitter when I first moved to New York, and let him stay at my apartment the day before he moved away.
FDR was a fighter and occasional punk -- I have the scars to prove it. He was a good cat, too. The best.
It's still not real that he's gone.
If not for the the television and print coverage I woke up to this morning, I might have overlooked the six month anniversary of Hurricane Sandy making landfall on New York.
And I live in one of the state's most heavily affected communities.
That's not to say that things are OK just half a year after the storm that changed everything. It's still far from it.
But at the same time, it feels like we're already a lifetime removed from that day when Hurricane Sandy ripped through Rockaway Beach, leaving in its wake the splintered ruin of a quiet beach community.
Maybe it's because the boardwalk debris has been cleaned up, and construction is underway for our new lifeguard stands and beach concession 'islands.' Maybe it's the return of some of our favorite local restaurants and businesses. Maybe it's because the ongoing lack of continuous subway service pushed me to leave my post as a reporter in Manhattan to try my hand at corporate communications and an opportunity that would allow me to forego the 3- to 5-hour daily commute to and from the city.
Or, perhaps, it's because my home was one of few that didn't flood. Though the survivor sickness has mostly worn off, there are constant reminders of how lucky we were. Whether it's through the sound of our neighbors rebuilding their flooded first floor or from the typical post-Sandy greetings of 'How did you make out?' and 'Are you moved back home yet?' We've all grown accustomed to living in a construction site.
It's flattering to see the media has not forgotten the Rockaways six months after Sandy. But while today we take a step back to remember the storm today, I'm still concerned for what happens tomorrow.
There is a flurry of activity along the shore and among existing businesses to be ready for a new summer season. Yet at this point it's still triage. There is no final plan for the full restoration of the boardwalk. There is no consensus on how to build better protection against future storms. There is no (good) mass transit solution for New York residents to get out to the beach and no timetable for the full restoration of the A train. And one gets the sense that the city still doesn't see this community's potential as a source for revenue and tourism -- there are still plenty of people who live in New York who don't realize there is a beach (nay, a surfing beach) within city limits.
In spite of everything, I'm as happy living in the Rockaways now as I've been at any point before Sandy hit. With each business that reopens and each neighbor who comes back comes incremental signs that things are going to be OK again. And all the dust and noise of construction brings with it the imagination to believe our little beach community on the edge of New York will eventually be better than it was before.
It isn't every day when Batman cruises through the city during lunch hour carrying a bouquet of flowers. Maybe Valentine's Day brings out the romantic in even the darkest of Dark Knights.
Who's the lucky Batgirl?
It used to be enough to simply “join the conversation,” creating a Facebook fan page or Twitter account linking readers back to stale content on a static website. But as social media took hold as an everyday function of customer outreach and communication, it became quickly apparent that the status quo wasn’t good enough.
That is, audience engagement in the age of social media requires a carefully tuned ear and a willingness to interact beyond merely 140 characters or a link back to your personal blog. Odds are whatever audience you’re trying to reach, each person out there wants to feel like you are writing just for them.
Here’s a simple checklist before you do anything in the social media sphere:
- Know yourself
- Know your audience
- Know where you want to be
Simple as that sounds, a quick scan of many companies’ and publications’ early efforts in social media come across as bland, uninspiring advertising, reaching out to accomplish nothing in particular other than simply being there. Sure, they have a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, and sometimes even a LinkedIn profile. But other than that, there are few signs of understanding how their intended audiences uses any of those platforms or what it is they want to learn.
The most successful social media efforts are those created with a clear understanding of who you are as a publisher, an understanding of your intended audience and their specific needs, and the basic comprehension of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the strongest social media platforms out there. Be your brand, take ownership of your specific area of expertise, and show you are passionate and understanding of what it is your readers want.
It's been a few years since I worked as a field reporter. Any more, I type all my conversations with sources or -- worst case -- record and transcribe. Perhaps it's made me lazy.
Looking back at some hand-scribbled notes from a recent conference, I realize just how bad it's gotten. I used to be able to read my handwriting without issue.
Must be time to get my eyes checked.
Forty days after the storm.
It only took a little more than a month after Hurricane Sandy, but the flooding found its way to my house.
Monday night I returned home to the sound of water dripping to the kitchen floor through a vent and several cracks in the ceiling. And in the little utility room behind the kitchen, it was downright pouting onto the furnace and hot water heater.
Turns out the appliances in my landlord's apartment upstairs were overflowing, and that they had been leaking water long enough to permeate the vents and ceiling in my apartment below. The landlord was home, but seemed surprised when I notified him that something was wrong.
I could never compare the leaks and puddles in my kitchen and closet with the sort of flooding our neighbors experienced all throughout the Rockaways. But in the weeks since the storm, our relatively unscathed home was one of the few sources of comfort in the midst of the surrounding turmoil that is life in the Rockaways post-Sandy. Just another dose of perspective in what feels like a never-ending test of emotional endurance. Every time we start to feel comfortable or begin to settle in to some sort of routine, a new challenge comes along.
This morning I drove my car about a mile, hopped on a ferry to Wall Street and then caught a subway to Times Square, where I work. Door-to-door my commute took roughly 90 minutes.
Somewhere along the line, it hit me that today is Nov. 29 -- a month to the day when everything changed.
One month ago, we were huddled around a TV 60 miles away from home, anxiously waiting for dispatches from Rockaway Beach. One month ago, we lost power in New York and New Jersey. One Month ago, we sat in the dark as Hurricane Sandy ripped apart the community we call home.
Ever since that day we've endured power outages, fuel shortages, destruction, heartbreak and loss, and have seen the first signs of progress in what is sure to be a long recovery. We saw our neighbors in Arverne, Rockaway Park and Belle Harbor gracefully accept their misfortunes, and keep going in the face of the surrounding hell. We've witnessed police, firefighters, sanitation and transit workers, soldiers and volunteers work hard to prop our community up after taking such a tremendous blow. So many countless heroes.
Nothing is the same as it was. Nor do I expect it ever will be. But we accept the hand we're dealt and move forward. It isn't easy, but it's all we've got.
Yes, that is a Mister Softee truck providing electricity to my otherwise dark home.
It's only been two days since the power came back on in my humble little corner of the Rockaway Peninsula. The electricity was out for more than two weeks following Hurricane Sandy.
Our neighborhood, along with all the others on the Rockaways, were among the last to start having their electricity restored by the Long Island Power Authority. During that dark time between the storm and the restoration of power, we relied on the kindness of a neighbor, who coincidentally owns a small fleet of ice cream trucks, to provide enough electricity to power a living room lamp and to charge our phones at night. If it wasn't for that small, generous act, we would have been otherwise forced to spend each night in darkness, with nothing but a handful of flashlights and candles to light our home.
I'm writing this down now, before I fully readjust to the ability to use things like light switches and power strips. Before things fully return to normal and I return to taking for granted all the little amenities that make life so convenient in New York. Never before had I considered electric light to be something so extraordinary.
Before the hurricane, the longest power outage I'd experienced was no more than a few hours. The most recent widespread outage to hit New York happened in 2003, and lasted only two days. Right now, in the third week after Sandy, there are still entire city blocks and neighborhoods in the Rockaways and greater Long Island that still don't have electricity.
In those first days without power, we held on to the hope that electricity would come back soon -- at least in New Jersey, where we had evacuated. But as time wore on, and the ensuing gas panic took hold of the region, it became increasingly harder to stay positive. Time ticks by much more slowly in the dark.
We ultimately gave up on New Jersey, choosing instead to wait out the restoration of power in the comfort of our own home. When we got there, the ice cream truck was in the neighboring driveway, serving as a generator for the apartments next door. A short time after arriving, we were given permission to daisy chain to the ice cream truck's power supply, thus, bringing us a small amount of comfort in the face of an otherwise pitch-black neighborhood.
That ice cream truck was just one small example of how neighbors pitched in to help each other after the storm. And it was the one that impacted me most directly. As I continue to internalize and make sense of everything I've seen in the last several weeks, I keep coming back to that ice cream truck that lit our nights and gave us a little taste of normalcy when everything else in the world was upside down.
One of my hardest days in recent memory was returning home to Rockaway Beach in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
In the days leading up to Sandy, several of our neighbors displayed a fairly blasé attitude toward the oncoming storm, citing last year's Hurricane Irene, which made landfall as a tropical storm, as evidence the peninsula would weather whatever Sandy threw at us. But as the storm drew nearer, the forecast started to sound like the set up for a bad joke -- "A hurricane, a nor'easter and a lunar high tide walk in to a bar together...."
We evacuated the day before Sandy made landfall, moving to the relative safety of northern New Jersey. When the storm hit on Oct. 29, it brought with it frightening news reports from the coast and shocking first-hand accounts via social media. None of the news was good for our little community on the outer edge of New York City. And when the power went out for us in New Jersey, we were cut off from any new developments in the aftermath of the storm.
Two days later, on Halloween, we made the decision to drive home and see what was left.
I'll never be able to fully describe everything I saw that day. Nor through written word can I do justice to the feelings it inspired, both good and bad, to go home and see that my house was still there, even though the homes and businesses of many of my neighbors were not. The community I love, and that I call home, was destroyed. It is something I will never forget.
The above video is a collection of photos and video I recorded upon returning home. It is the best I can do right now to describe what I saw and the way that it felt.
Two weeks after the storm, the Rockaways are in the early stages of what looks to be a long recovery. To learn more about that process, or find out how to pitch in, visit Rockaway Help