sandy and the marathon

my thoughts, which might not mean anything, but it’s my blog so here we go.

As many of you know, it’s been a bit of a trying few days in here in NYC.  (I was going to say a trying week…but it hasn’t even been a week yet, crazy.)  Those of us who were smart prepared by heading to the grocery store over the weekend to stock up on last minute goods, although I thought it was a bit humorous how many perishable items people were buying.  Who knows how many of them ended up losing power.

I’ve been lucky through this…I live in an area of the city where I didn’t lose power, water, or (omg, so important) internet or cell phone service.  I can walk to work, and I did…to my hospital that never lost power (although we heard the generators rumbling from time to time) and didn’t have to evacuate.

I don’t talk about it too much, but being a nurse isn’t always my favorite thing in the entire world.  It’s tiring, mentally, physically, emotionally…and I can’t fully explain it to anyone who isn’t a nurse.  I could try, but it never fully comes across.  Some people recommend looking at other jobs, but I do have some nice perks (three days per week of work?) and after working at the bedside literally helping people (although it doesn’t always seem like that…), I’m not sure I could take anything as seriously.

Although nursing isn’t always at the top of my list, I do love my nurses and the people I work with.  We knew the hurricane was coming, and for most of us, the question wasn’t, “Can I get to work?” it was more like, “How do I get to work?  Do you need me to come in extra?”  I work night shift, and we watched the news all night in patients’ rooms…NYU’s evacuation, the mass flooding, the electricity going out, trees down, destruction everywhere.  When NYC woke up, none of their surprise was news to us.  We came into work early to make sure we could get there (some of us brought helmets in case of falling trees…) and some slept at the hospital so they could continue to work.

This is also how we got through our shifts this week…

I have friends who don’t have power or water, and they don’t know when they’ll get it back.  All week at work the question was flying, “Do you need a place to stay?”  I haven’t seen the worst of it because I’ve been at work and in my safe little apartment.  At work last night, we prepared to accept more patients who are being evacuated from hospitals who have generators that have failed (Bellevue, Montefiore)…I’m in an ICU so we didn’t really get any patients, although there are plenty of med/surg patients and patients needing dialysis going around. 

We could have had it so much worse (at my hospital…and I understand it’s not over yet), and I have so much respect for those nurses who carried vented patients requiring pressor support down fifteen flights of stairs with the help of FDNY…if you’ve ever tried to move an ICU patient just in their own bed, you would understand how crazy it would be to carry these patients down flights of stairs.

I don’t remember where I was going with this, nor am I any good at transitions, but…

Lots of people ask me about the marathon.  I’ve thought about it and brought it up a lot on my own.  I deferred before any of this happened for reasons not related to the hurricane.  But now…well, everyone has their opinion.  So I might as well give you mine, which despite my huge blog presence (not true…) doesn’t really make a difference and Bloomberg/Mary won’t be referencing me for my opinion anytime soon.

I don’t think the marathon should be run.  I think it’s too soon.  Some people are citing 9/11 as a reference, which I think it definitely a different situation.  I wasn’t here for that, and yes, the marathon did go on…just under two months later.  Less than a week later?  I’m not so sure about that one.  Trees are down, Brooklyn is basically another country right now, and Staten Island, including the start area, is destroyed.

I’ve run ten marathons, which I think is enough to give me perspective on what goes into training.  People have been training for months, others have been waiting out the lottery, doing 9+1, or raising money for charity to get into the marathon.  I understand the disappointment and realize what loss would occur to each runner individually if the marathon is not run.  Financial implications as well.

But…have you looked around the city?  Areas are still under water, trees are down everywhere, lower Manhattan doesn’t have electricity or water…and people are robbing stores just for food.  Some people are complaining that the recovery actions aren’t happening fast enough…again, I’m lucky to not really be affected.  I understand that NYRR is a private organization, but it uses tons of public resources to put on the show.  You know how people were upset about the cost of the race?  How NYPD increased their fees to help with the marathon?

That’s the same NYPD that should be out helping people.  Manpower is manpower, and extra cops probably aren’t going to magically appear to put on the marathon and help people still recovering from the disaster of this week.  It’s a matter of numbers in my opinion.

I don’t necessarily think it’s on the shoulders of NYRR to allocate food/water/funds to the relief effort.  The marathon does bring a lot of money into the city, but with displaced people filling hotels and public transportation hanging on, what will this do to the city?  I have no idea, but I hope it doesn’t take away from those who are already in need.

Some people argue that continuing with the marathon will be a show of resilience and the ability of New Yorkers to bounce back after disaster.  I wasn’t here after 9/11, but the marathon was the first big event that the city put on after the attack, and it did bring the city together.  But it’s been days.  Not that everyone after 9/11 was better after the few weeks, but…days.  It just doesn’t seem right to me.  (Also, I still don’t feel right making this comparison.)  People are still devastated.  People are out of their homes, don’t have power, got flooded, etc etc etc etc.  I know a lot of the city comes out for marathon, but I’m sure the number of people who really care about the marathon right now is much more minimal than ever.  Most of my friends in the city are runners, many of who are running the marathon, so I have a skewed view of what people think, and many people think the marathon will be good for the city.  I’m not so sure it will.

As for myself, I’m not running, but I’ve already said that.  It doesn’t seem like marathon week…at all.  Maybe because I’ve been in night shift/hurricane hibernation.  But the excitement doesn’t really seem to be around, or I’m not around people who are excited about the marathon.  They say the marathon is going to go on, and at this point I’m assuming it will although I don’t fully understand the logistics of it.  I don’t really support the idea of the marathon continuing on, and it will definitely have a different feel that years past. 

Mainly, I was aghast at the number of people who woke up on Tuesday morning wondering if the marathon would still be held and why NYRR/the city hadn’t made a decision yet.  Many people are trying to fly in.  Others just want to know.  But…priorities, please?

If the marathon is going to go on…then I think people should run it.  I believe in putting trust in people who probably know more about the situation than I do, and if they decide to put the marathon on, people shouldn’t feel bad about running it.  I’m glad I don’t have to make the decision, and runners will basically have it made for them.  I won’t feel bad about being out there cheering, and I still look forward to seeing everyone struggle rock mile 23.

So in summary (so many words…), thank to you all the nurses/emergency workers who have been helping us through this week.  While I’m not sold on continuing with the marathon, I can’t wait to cheer for runners at one of the greatest marathons in the world.

And, go…thoughts?

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  1. @ShannonAMay says

    Very well put.

    Seriously nuts they aren’t cancelling. Running 26.2 miles is crazy enough. Running 1 week after a hurricane hits and so much damage is done? Absolutely ridiculous.

    Not cool, Bloomberg. Not cool.

  2. says

    Susan, this was very well put. I agree with you 100%. I wrote a post yesterday saying that I would understand if they cancel but I have to say I’m glad that they didn’t. I’ve been without power for days, a tree came through my roof and some of my family members lost their homes and all of this has totally clouded me from thinking about Race Week but honestly, right now I’m holding onto the race as being the only shred of normalcy for me rigt now. It’ll be nice to be able to take my mind off of this week…not ignore it but think of something else for a bit and I hope that it serves that purpose for everyone. Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)

  3. says

    I want the city to have something to rally behind more than anything: this week has been bloody miserable, and the footage from SI and Queens in particular has been truly awful. At first I was into the idea of the marathon happening no matter what: stiff upper lip and all that. But the more footage I see of houses underwater, families displaced etc, the more I think it’s a mistake. I’ll run regardless, making me a hypocrite obv, but it just feels icky.

  4. says

    Well said!! I don’t envy the decision makers at all (but that’s why they get paid the big bucks, right?) I guess no matter what decision they make, there will be people that disagree. I still can’t really decide how I feel about it, but am definitely leaning towards thinking they shouldn’t go through with it. But like you, I’ll cheer anyway!

  5. says

    For the record, I made the decision not to travel and run yesterday, and I have to say, I agree with you. I’ve had enough of all the “I don’t support the marathon,” “Mary Wittenberg is evil,” comments, but honestly, I can’t imagine being excited about the marathon if I were in New York right now. The fact that the borough president of Staten Island and New York state senators are still urging Bloomberg to cancel says a lot, IMO.

  6. says

    I would have been fine either way, but decided to continue on this year when 1) the mayor said it was on, 2) NYRR confirmed that and 3) Delta was able to get me here today. My main reasons for not deferring were the economic contribution the marathon delivers and that my daughter really, really wanted to visit New York. I feel terrible for those who have suffered from the storm, though, and feel a bit uncomfortable about being here. That was compounded by the fact that everything else on our trip has been very “normal” so far – ground transportation, lodging, food, electricity, phone service and Internet were all fine today…

  7. says

    Well said! I couldn’t agree with you more. I don’t necessarily agree with the decision that was made, but it’s been made, so let’s support our friends that are running! It makes me sad that they are comparing it to 9/11, I WAS here. It is totally different and it has been DAYS not months since the hurricane. Like you, I work in healthcare and have to deal with hurricane, from a patient perspective, up close and personal. I’m happy I was able to help in some way, but to come home at night and constantly see marathon chatter has added to my sadness. I couldn’t have said this better myself! With that said, I’ll be out there cheering our friends on along with you on Sunday! Thank you for writing this!!!

  8. says

    I would just like to say THANK YOU for being such a dedicated, awesome nurse. The amazing heroics I have witnessed this week (both in person and via the news) from you guys really humbles me. THe fact that, like you said, it isn’t “can I get to work” but “how do I get to work” says so much. So thanks :) I hope you get a nice day off soon :)

    Oh yeah, the marathon. Well, I’ll be running. And I can’t wait to see you cheering :)

  9. says

    Spot on. It’s absolutely true that 9/11 was on a whole different scale than the hurricane, but the fact that the 2001 marathon was held almost two months later was also a huge difference. I wasn’t here for that either, but I think it’s fair to say that the city had at least a little bit of time to begin trying to back on its feet before throwing a city-wide party like the marathon. How can we claim that the marathon will showcase how the city has “bounced back” DAYS later when recovery efforts are still just barely starting?

    I agree that holding the marathon is not the right choice, but if it’s going to happen, people who are registered and able to participate should still do so. But you know what? I haven’t seen much excitement from runners who claim to be happy that the show will go on. Instead, many are quick to be defensive about not feeling guilty about running. It wasn’t their decision, so I don’t think they should feel guilty, but I think this attitude is definitely part of why it doesn’t feel like race week. Maybe if they get more psyched up, I will too. In any case, I’ll be waiting to cheer on my runner friends at mile 7 on 4th Ave in Brooklyn.

    Anyway, thanks for all your hard work this week!

  10. Jess says

    What you and the other nurses are doing is beyond amazing! You guys rock!

    I’m still torn about this whole thing even though I picked up my race number today.

  11. Janice says

    I’m a nurse from KS, although I’ve never dealt with hurricanes or anything remotely close to 9/11. I helped the day after the tragic tornado in Joplin last year. I encouraged a girl who was struggling with a decision on this to do it. If there is any city in the world that can pull it off, it is NYC. If the deciding powers that be didn’t feel it was safe they would have canceled it. They’ve made the decision, so run. I also encouraged this girl to take one of the days she’d planned to sight see to volunteer. This race may be what some of the people need, pound the pavement for a few hrs and get their mind right. Anywho, just my 2 cents. Seeing & hearing of other nurses heroic actions make me SO proud to be a nurse!!

  12. Abbe says

    Seriously can’t get over the nurses carrying vented patients down the stairs. Nurses never cease to amaze me! Thank you – and all of your coworkers, everywhere – for all you do.

  13. says

    So well said Susan! First of all – the work that you and other nurses do is so admirable. The stories of the nurses who evacuated those patients were just incredible. I can’t even imagine…

    In terms of the marathon, I completely agree with your post. I’m not in the city, so I obviously can’t actually see the destruction. But from the stories I’ve heard and the news coverage alone, I just couldn’t imagine how they were going to pull the marathon off so soon. If it had been canceled, I would have been bummed (I think it’s impossible not to be when it’s something you’ve worked months training for) but I would’ve completely understood…and thought it was for the best. Anyway…since they are going through with it, I will be running (I have to trust that at this point it was the right call for the city). But it doesn’t feel like race week for me either. There’s so much negative energy around the race….so much anger toward the runners. So I mostly feel guilty about the entire thing. I’m coming to the city to support the local business, but at this point Sunday doesn’t feel like the glorious celebration of resilience that they’ve claimed it will be. Maybe that’ll change this weekend? I think it’s awesome that NYRR has now named the marathon the “Race to Recover” and is donating a huge amount of money to the relief efforts. I’m not sure if it’ll be enough to take away the negative feelings.
    Anyway, that’s a lot of rambling… I hope things at work start calming down soon and that your hospital continues to stay strong. And hopefully I’ll see you out at mile 23!

  14. says

    I agree with all your thoughts 100%! Very well put! Thank you so very much for your hard work and dedication as a nurse. Nurses are such heroes and are hardly recognized for all the great things they do every day.

  15. says

    I agree with you 100%. It is too soon. From what I see on TV…a lot needs to be done…they should use these 40000 runners to help clean!!!

  16. says

    I completely agree with you – thank you so much for being there for the people who have needed you this week! I was still torn on whether I’d line up for the race and am so pleased that it was cancelled! I wish they would have done it sooner, but better late than never.

  17. says

    I am a NICU nurse in Florida and was very moved to hear all the stories about the crazy awesome things nurses were doing in NYC!! I also work night shift and I will admit there are many days where I feel similarly to you (WHY am I doing this job? How can working nights and living like a vampire be healthy, normal, or worthwhile?) But hearing stories like the ones coming out of NYC remind me of why I like being a nurse…and why I love my fellow nurses! We really are a team!!!!
    I have some bummed out friends who flew up to NYC for the marathon, only to have the race cancelled. I was shocked to hear they were initially planning to allow the marathon to go on…so I can’t say I was super shocked when it was eventually cancelled.


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