“Sitting here in this charming Upper East Side restaurant, it’s as if nothing horrendous happened only a few miles away.” Words from a visiting former New Yorker remind me that more hurricane-unscathed New Yorkers need to get out and visit South Street Seaport and other areas battered and shuttered by the hurricane. Communities like Staten Island, the Rockaways, Breezy Point and Long Beach need our presence and that of tourists. It’s really what “love one another” Christmas and Chanukah themes are all about —not the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and other popular holiday scenes.
Surely, seeing really is believing and is bound to generate more empathy and tangible help. And just being there helps the tens of thousands afflicted, literally in our own backyard, know they are not forgotten and it’s not business as usual elsewhere. It’s up to the media, especially, to keep showing the ongoing devastation and telling the heartbreaking stories.
Before my dinner companion made this most telling remark, the column in progress began with the televised Rockefeller Center tree lighting extravaganza and how I thought calls for Hurricane Sandy aid should have been center-staged and not occasional, relatively low-key requests. And before they performed, the featured artists could have showed some sympathy and brought attention to the massive hardship and loss in places only a few miles away.
But mostly it was showbiz as usual, with too much spectacular background décor. The magnificent tree is all we need, and indeed less is more when it comes to its lighting. As always, I wished the performers had asked the adoring crowd there to sing along, but with fewer ho-ho-ho songs and no “can’t live without you” lyrics. Include family, close friends and good neighbors in the lyrics of the wildly popular “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” And “a home” is what tens of thousands in the tri-state area now most desperately need.
On a closing note, the Park Avenue memorial trees are the most meaningful and serenely lovely of all the city’s December traditions. Once again, this parade of illuminated fir trees are in hallowed memory of those who gave their lives in this nation’s wars. This blessed tradition was started in 1945 by several Manhattan mothers whose sons perished in that war, which so tragically was only a taste of more to come. As the holiday season hits full swing, don’t forget that above all, we must pray and work to prevent this most awful of all human-made disasters!
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