Monday, September 11, 2017

Calm Before (During and After) the Storm

As some of you know, I enjoy doing masonry work on the weekends to relax. It’s physical and it’s dirty. It requires a blend of math, physics, esthetics and brute strength. I know manual labor is not everyone’s idea of a fun weekend, but for me, it’s a welcome change from email, texting and computer screens because it is so tangible.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been a repairing a brick retaining wall in my back yard. Actually, it’s my second attempt at repairing the wall. My first repair job 18 years ago, shortly after moving into the home, is now in need of uhmm….a repair. I see now what I could have done better the first time in terms of the foundation, the joints, the slope and adding more weep holes to relieve water pressure that builds up behind the wall. But, that’s how one learns and this version of the wall will be better.
Rebuilding makes you stronger
Speaking of rebuilding, there will be plenty of it in Houston, Miami and throughout the Caribbean in the weeks and months ahead. It won’t be easy. Fingers will be pointed at botched relief efforts, charity scams, insurance companies that won’t honor legitimate claims and forgotten souls who lived for days without food or water before being rescued. But at the end of the tunnel, the human spirit will overcome the worst that Mother Nature has to dish out; just like we’ll overcome the worst the cowardly terrorists have to dish out.
Today marks the 16th anniversary of 9/11. If you’ve been down to lower Manhattan recently, even the most cynically among us has to be impressed with the power of the 9/11 memorial and how it is integrated into a massive new urban space, featuring parks, gleaming office towers, retail and an ultra-modern transit hub. If that’s not an F/U to the terrorists, I don’t know what is.
9/11 is also my Mom’s birthday. Every year, Mom laments how she falls guilty about celebrating on the anniversary of such a tragic day in our nation’s history. But more often than not, she and my Dad make the two-hour trek to Manhattan from their home in Philadelphia. They’ll peruse their favorite museums and restaurants. They’ll take in a show and enjoy just being alive. They’ll probably go to lower Manhattan and visit the 9/11 memorial.

“That’s how you fight back against the terrorists,” she’ll say defiantly, “by going about your business and enjoying life.” My folks are in pretty good health, but they lost their daughter—my younger sister—to cancer last year and no parent wants to outlive their child and memorials make you think of things like that.
I lost two neighbors on 9/11, too. They were young dads who just “never came home from work that day,” as their widows later said. We didn’t lose anyone in our family that day, but we came close.
I was supposed to be at a 9 a.m. meeting in Jersey City on 9/11/01. That’s right, 9 a.m. which meant I should have been on the PATH train directly underneath the World Trade Center (WTC) towers about 8:45 a.m. when the first plane hit the North Tower. I remember, it was a clear, beautiful Tuesday. At the last minute, I decided to go to the polls before work that day, since we had primary elections and I didn’t think I’d return home in time to vote. I often skip the primaries, but for some reason that day, I felt compelled to do my civic duty.
My sister worked at #7 WTC but she had just bought a home and took the day off to pack boxes and finish moving. My cousin (with a heart condition) worked on the 60th floor of #2 WTC. As luck would have it, he had a breakfast meeting in midtown and wasn’t in his office at the times the planes hit. So many near misses that day and it could have been even worse.
A good friend of ours from the Tampa area spent last weekend with us. She was in surprisingly good spirits despite the apocalyptic weather reports about her city that kept flashing across CNN. She and her husband own two properties on the Tampa area coastline (primary residence and rental property) and to cheer her up, we went out to a nice dinner with several other mutual friends and then watched some Netflix for comic relief.

“We have flood and hurricane insurance on each property and at least we have plenty of other places to go,” she said. “Others have it a lot worse than we do.”

She suggested watching Tina Fey’s dark comedy, The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt whose lead character has a signature catch-phrase for getting through tough times: You can stand anything for 10 seconds. You tough it out for 10 seconds and then try to go 10 seconds more.
That’s what helped Kimmie get through years of captivity in an underground bunker having been abducted by a deranged cult leader in the Midwest. That’s what helps her get through setback after setback when she arrives in New York City, with no job, no plans and then promptly loses all her cash.

As was the case 16 year ago on this date. It’s not just one day at a time, it’s 10 seconds at a time, and then another 10 seconds and then another. That’s how Houston and South Florida will rebuild. That’s how NYC rebuilt 16 years ago.

We’re Americans. We’re tough and we have grit. Sure we’re materialistic, we’re workaholics and we think we’re better than most other countries. But, we help each other out in times of need. We open our wallets. We donate food, clothes and water…..and step up to fill sandbags, or bail water and soggy plywood out of neighbor’s homes and we help those out in hard times. Whether it’s a neighbor down the street or a villager from halfway around the world, we know how to step up and help out.

*** NOTE: Make sure to consult Charity Navigator before you give.


No one really knows why our homes or cities are targeted for disasters, but it happens all the time and it will happen again. Thanks to climate change, and terrorism, there really is no safe, worry-free place to live. Help out those in need, because that’s who you’ll be depending on when it’s your turn to face down a disaster. If that’s not part of a moral contract you can live with, then I cordially invite you to HIT THE BRICKS.


TAGS: Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt, resilience, 9/11, Hurricane Harvey, Houston, Hurrican Irma, Miami

1 comment:

Steven Wright said...

My wife and I celebrate our anniversary on 9/11 and feel much the same as your mom. Further, your anecdote on rebuilding is very apropos out here in Oregon (and the west) as we continue to battle devastating wild fires.

Steven Wright, ASI Wealth Management