(A photo I snapped while out in Staten Island’s New Dorp/Midland Beach neighborhood)
When the winds started picking up here in Manhattan on Monday I quickly realized this wasn’t going to be as calm as Hurricane Irene was last year. Around 1 o’clock in the afternoon I ran to the grocery store for a few last minute items then swiftly returned so I could take my pup for one more walk before the weather got too bad.
As I walked out the back door of my apartment building with Meeko I noticed a few different sized bags and suitcases on the ground at the bottom of the ramp. Completely puzzled as to why someone would just leave them there, I shrugged to myself and kept walking. Once I got to the end I saw a man struggling to gather the bags. Once he noticed me, he looked up immediately and said, “Excuse me but do you know if there’s a shelter close by?” The only thing I could think of was the synagogue two blocks south of my apartment where I’ve seen a soup kitchen line, so I told him to try there.
Meeko started pulling back towards the apartment after quickly handling his business so I ran back to get him out of the increasingly strong winds. Living in New York City, I’m accustomed to encountering homeless people on a daily basis, but for some reason I could not shake the look in this man’s eyes. Upon entering my apartment I ran to my laptop and googled “hurricane shelters in nyc,” typed the closest location into my phone and ran out of my apartment.
At this point the rain had picked up tremendously and the wind felt like it was getting worse by the minute. I made it down to the synagogue as fast as I could and as I turned the corner I saw the same man pressed with his back to the door, both hands full of bags, bracing himself from the wind. I walked right up to him, reached out for some of his bags and said, “Sir, I’m going to put you in a taxi to take you to a Hurricane Shelter.” He looked right into my eyes with a little confusion but overwhelming emotion and simply said, “Thank you, you’re an angel.” We walked a block over to Broadway and I started trying to hail a cab. I was so worried no one would stop but to my surprise the first open cab slowly pulled up and rolled down his window. Leaning in I handed him a twenty dollar bill and asked him to please take this man to the Hurricane shelter downtown. He looked straight at me and said, “You have a big heart young lady” and I responded by saying, “I couldn’t just leave him outside in this.” The cab driver jumped out and helped us put all 7 bags in the trunk. The man just kept thanking me over and over again. I told him to be safe and take care, thanked the cab driver and turned back towards my building. Tears immediately started falling down my face.
I’m not an angel but I am thankful that I was able to help someone in need. That experience last Monday will stay with me forever. We all know the devastation Sandy caused to buildings, homes and subway stations…I can’t imagine what would have happened to a person without shelter.