Saturday, November 10, 2012

Lessons in Adversity

It's good that S wasn't going to California for college, I thought. (1) It was too far and the logistics of travel back and forth were horrendous. (2)It was in earthquake zone- Who knew when the San Andreas fault was going to trigger the Big One?  I didn't relish the prospect of trying to establish contact with him so far away, were a major earthquake to strike the area.
As things turned out, he went to Manhattan, NYC,and for a while everything was hunky-dory. The communication part was no better than I thought. It was painful to extract anything from him beyond the weekly text message. Live conversation became a strict no-no. It was a full six weeks before I even got to hear his voice (in person, as he travelled down to Pittsburgh for a short break).
Then Hurricane Sandy hit. In Pittsburgh, we got a smattering of heavy rains and winds. NYC got rains, winds of 80 mph, and storm surges topping 14 feet.  Lower Manhattan got a spectacular explosion at the far end of East 14th St near FDR Dr, that may have caused the complete loss of power to over half a million people in the area, including S's residence hall and other university buildings.
The communication problem, already bad pre-storm, became worse. It was over 24 hours before I would hear from him, my sole sanity being the frequent updates by parents on the university's Facebook page, as they heard from their near and dear.
I was painting a mental picture of S's day, imagining him in line at the many queues for food at the student center. Or hanging out with friends in the absence of working computers and internet. Or getting to bed early once it turned dark ( the residence hall had generator power, but only to hallways and common areas, not the rooms).
Finally 24 hours after the storm had passed, I got an email message from him, confirming that he was doing fine, had enough food, continued to stay in his residence hall, which still had running water and heat. He didn't rely solely on the university food lines, but also chose to buy from the street corner cart vendors, who amazingly enough, appear to have remained in the city through the storm.
He had spent a couple of days walking up to Times Square, the Empire State building and other areas of mid and uptown that still had power, having had no classes with the university closed through the weekend.
The power was finally restored to that sector on Friday, signaled by a celebratory email from S.  Shortly later, we were able to text and talk with him, as the cellular networks came back online.
Life was back to normal after the four days of 'adversity', and I went back to perusing Facebook for the occasional evidence that S was still busy with all the usual things a student his age does.