From The Other Side Of The Bench
By David J. Seidemann, Esq.
I usually sit at my computer, collect my thoughts, and about 20 minutes later e‑mail my article to the editor. But as I sit here this afternoon, November 6, at three o’clock in the afternoon, my thoughts are anywhere and everywhere but collected. Part of me is fixated on the horror, limited in scope in comparison to so many others, that my family endured over the last ten days or so.
I have difficulty imposing on others, so rather than hunker down with one family for the last week, my family and I relocated three times so as not to be a burden. Many nights we had to split up, with some sleeping at one friend’s home while other family members laid our heads on pillows elsewhere.
Another part of my psyche is trapped in the present, wondering how to best climb out of the mess at home and at work. Meetings and court dates that were scheduled all need to be rescheduled. Still another part of me is focused on the election. Amidst the chaos, I did manage to vote this morning and hope and pray that substance prevails over demagoguery, and that forward thinking prevails over complacency.
And with all of the above inconveniences, by comparison I did not suffer at all. I toured our Five Towns and Far Rockaway with Hatzalah members and elected officials over the last few days. I attended meetings with the mayor and visited Village Hall. What I saw was and is indescribable. The mayors and trustees of our villages all deserve tremendous thanks for what they have tried to do and what they were able to accomplish. Achiezer, Hatzalah, Sh’or Yoshuv, and an often overlooked outfit, taken for granted, the Auxiliary Police and specifically Danny Gluck, deserve kudos beyond kudos for what they have done with little or no feedback from the entities that should have prepared us for this disaster.
In that regard, there is a lot to be learned from the utter lack of preparedness and the gross failure of communication after the fact, most noticeably by the Long Island Power Authority. If our local elected officials are to be believed, and I have no reason to doubt them, LIPA is the entity that should “lose power” to operate in the future. Not one e‑mail, text message, or even any feeble attempt to communicate with us by truck with a bullhorn driving through our neighborhoods. LIPA left us in the dark in so many ways. Late in paying your bill one month? LIPA will find you. No electricity? Suddenly we don’t exist.
Gas but no power to pump it at some stations, and power but no gas at other stations is a travesty and should shame the authorities. If the storm was to hit Monday, every gas station with gas but no power should have been supplied a generator by FEMA on Sunday, the day before the storm. Power but no gas? Tankers should have been parked in the Costco parking lot with gas the day before the storm. The list of missteps is endless, even conceding that G‑d’s nature is more powerful than man. Man’s body is weaker than nature, but man’s mind is stronger.
I felt like I was living through the Bible these last few days. First came the Big Flood followed by the Tower of Bavel where everyone spoke a different language and no one was able to communicate. Our every movement became restricted like a slave’s in Egypt, and then we were plunged into the plague of darkness.
Our servitude in Egypt lasted 210 years, but when it was over, it was over in an instant. Sorrowfully, I do not believe that to be the case here. Our friends and neighbors will suffer for the foreseeable future as people’s entire belongings and, yes, mental security have been lost.
But I also believe that the worst that “nature” throws at us can bring out the best in man’s nature. The stories of giving and more giving have already been told over in various publications and forums and I am sure there will be many more to share as we dry out.
With all that I have seen and heard and experienced the last few days, I am haunted by something I saw yesterday afternoon as I was driving through our neighborhood. I saw a man who appeared to be in his sixties, ripped clothing, no socks, wearing Crocs and in need of a shave.
He was picking through the garbage and pulled out an apple and a half a bottle of Pepsi. I have seen him before. Many times before. Before the hurricane, before the rest of us were doing without, I had seen him picking through the trash for food in our neighborhood. His life did not change much as a result of the hurricane. He has been hurting longer than any one of us could bear.
Unlike others, I will not offer my opinion as to why we were hit as we were hit. Any such statements are reckless, provide no comfort for those that are suffering, and by the way are probably wrong. Anyone with sufficient wisdom to provide such information should be appointed as the new director of FEMA and LIPA.
What is helpful is to realize that the suffering we are witnessing on a mass scale is there every day for many of our neighbors on a daily basis in some form or another. Sometimes it takes a hurricane to alert us to that fact.
As we struggle collectively to rebuild structure and infrastructure, let us always remember those who are lacking even when for us the sun is shining brightly. v
David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann and Mermelstein and serves as a professor of business law at Touro College. He can be reached at 718-692-1013 or firstname.lastname@example.org.