This morning, with all of lower Manhattan still without power, I got a text from a friend about a distribution center handing out food and water to the badly Sandy-affected residents of the far East Village and the Lower East Side. I biked over to find a schoolyard full of activity, with volunteers from several different groups distributing hot food, non-perishable food, water, blankets, and all sorts of other supplies to residents of the nearby buildings, who had been without power, heat, or water for the whole week. The desperation could be seen in the length of the line, which was never shorter than several blocks the entire day and often quite a bit longer, as people streamed in from all over. But as the day went on and the operation got better organized, teams were sent out into the surrounding towers to deliver meals and supplies to shut-in seniors. (I managed to make myself useful by helping unload National Guard trucks full of MRE's and a Humane Society truck full of pet food, and then by collecting trash and breaking down cardboard boxes for the rest of the day.)
Even amid all the sadness and suffering, though, there was real gratitude for all the volunteers, many of whom were from the surrounding neighborhood. And then, just after 5pm, there was a truly magical moment: the street lights flickered back on, and a few people noticed and began cheering. Soon others noticed and were cheering and clapping and hugging and high-fiving. Before long, people were literally dancing in the streets and on the balconies of the high-rises surrounding the schoolyard we were working in. It was unreal, a spontaneous celebration and a tremendous relief. (We didn't know at the time that electricity was back on, at that point, only east of Broadway, from 14th to Canal). More of my photos from that day and the rest of the post-Sandy week on my flickr page here.