Brethren in New York City and Hurricane Sandy
November 1, 2012
Dear Ministers and Brethren,
The times of prophecy are very much upon us. America has just endured another heavy blow from super-storm Sandy. Although it affected many areas in the northeastern part of the country, the heaviest weight of destruction was in the New York City area where we have an energetic congregation of over 80 brethren.
They certainly need our prayers as this update from Howard Davis, our pastor in the area, attests. You can also read additional updates from New York City and the other storm related areas in the Northeast on the Church’s webpage at: http://www.ucg.org/blog/praying-those-path-hurricane-sandy.
During these severe emergencies we are all reminded to diligently keep our eyes on our Savior Jesus Christ and pray fervently to our loving Father in heaven. Please especially remember our New York City brethren in your prayers.
With love in Christ’s service,
Dennis Luker, president
P.S. Please share with the membership as you are able.
UPDATE ON BRETHREN IN NEW YORK CITY AFTER SUPER-STORM SANDY
[Report from Howard Davis, UCG Pastor for New York City:]
As the wall of water in the perfectly designed super-storm Sandy smashed all records in New York City’s 387 year history, lower Manhattan and the financial district called, “Downtown,” was inundated in a flood 2.5 feet higher than the flood of 1827. All the United Church of God brethren were individually protected either by angels or wisdom or God’s personal intervention from the harm and devastation found throughout the megalopolis. Most are still unable to get to their jobs until the flooded subways, severe water damage, and blown power transformers are restored.
Parts of the Long Island’s coastline communities have devastation scenes like New Orleans had after hurricane Katrina in 2005.
We all prayed and now have many examples of God’s hand in keeping the effects of the devastation away from members and their property. Living in a higher elevation area which received severe wind damage at the height of the storm Monday, a wife said to her husband “that tree is coming down on the house.” This relatively new family (the wife was baptized just before the Feast) who live in Queens saw every large tree on their block blown down on neighbors’ houses. Thinking of God’s promise, her husband said the tree won’t fall on them. Moments later, it did fall, hitting not their house, but unfortunately a neighbor’s house. Another member who works for the New York City Sanitation department was the last house in his Queens neighborhood to have power before the sea of urban darkness.
Up to 7 million people typically use the subway system and Long Island railroads daily. The 1.8 million people living on Manhattan are augmented with millions of others to make up the Manhattan workforce of 4 million. Functionally, the city remains shut down as of Thursday. New York City has 47 million visitors per year, by far the most in the US and the impact on tourism, at least for a while, will have negative impacts on this great industry, as well as on many aspects of the retail and financial sectors.
All 80 members are physically fine, but everyone’s lives have been disrupted. The members’ school-age children in the NYC public school system and members working as teachers and school bus drivers for the system’s 1,000,000 students have the week off—as well as those attending area universities. Three graduate university students are typical—one in Art History at Hunter College near the Metropolitan Museum can’t get back to the Upper East Side on Manhattan from her stay with brethren in Brooklyn. Another student studying cellular chemistry has her classes cancelled and her work in a lower Manhattan retailer shuttered. Yet another in a masters program in physics at Long Island’s North Shore New York University at Stonybrook has her life disrupted. At Stonybrook, our student prayed that her roommates would not freak out as the wind sounded like freight trains on top of a superhighway of traffic blowing a tree down on her roommate’s car.
All subways, and the major freeway systems were shut down, and while the freeways are now open, very few trains are coming online. Power, phone service, television and Internet services have been disrupted for many, making the brethren’s wired and wireless connections complicated. Elements of the grid go on and off in a crazy irrational pattern since the storm left the city.
Knowing there would be a disaster on the South Coast of Long Island where I live in Bay Shore, and in order to have phone, Internet, and other abilities to communicate with brethren and the outside world, I left my home Sunday at noon, a day ahead of the disaster, thinking the roads out of Long Island would be jammed with people also trying to get out. I was shocked to find the opposite.
It was weird, like one of the disaster movies of mindless millions fleeing the wrath to come but heading the wrong way, in this case to go and stay on Long Island which I was fleeing. Cars bumper to bumper streamed out of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens joining the jammed traffic. While there was nearly no traffic in my lanes toward the city and up to Connecticut and safety. It seemed like a “lemming syndrome” leading to certain tragedy or at least inconvenience of unimagined dimensions.
As it turns out, many people did not obey civic leaders’ orders to leave dangerous coastal areas and were quite foolish to not evacuate. Then many more thought they were safe in Long Island. So it was not surprising that many were headed to severe problems while I was heading north to get far away from Long Island’s fragile utility infrastructure. Everybody staying faced the highest probability that they will be without power for at least a week or many weeks—no refrigeration, no food in grocery stores, no gasoline in stations.
And as it turned out, Long Island’s power grid was devastated with trees knocked over exposed power lines everywhere blowing out transformers. Two of the three million Long Islanders in Nassau and Suffolk counties are still without power, and some estimates say it will be weeks before many people have power. A member called to inform me that my house is safe, but without power, and he has learned that it take 10 days or longer to repair the electric system in that neighborhood. National Guardsmen are now stationed at gas stations near where I live to maintain order as lines of over 100 cars long wait to get fuel.
Members had a variety of storm experiences. Some members above Manhattan’s 155th Street felt very little rain or wind, no power disruptions, and even engaged in pleasant bicycle riding to vantage points where they could view the Hudson River and hurricane level winds ravage lower Manhattan. Still there is no power below 34th Street where the Empire State Building is located. One member employed at the huge hospital Beth Israel complex on 14th Street can’t work because there is no power. There is no subway service yet anyway which would normally take her 45 minutes to travel from her Long Island home—a trip that would take four hours each way on the overwhelmingly crowded bus system.
Lower Manhattan and Wall Street employs members whose lives are chaotic for the foreseeable future. The area has hundreds of thousands of people now beginning to really suffer, just a mile or two away from the New York Stock Exchange.
The world’s financial district is functionally reduced for a time to Third World levels of inconveniences and lack of services. These people are climbing 10, 20, 30 stories in high rises without heat, enduring 40 degree temperatures at night and unable to flush toilets due to a low or non-functioning water and sewer systems. Restaurants are boarded up, and few or no local neighborhood stores open even in some of the trendiest areas of the lower east and west sides. Block after block of trendy affluent young people in their hip twenties are stranded, and fleeing to the middle class homes out of the city, or are simply stuck. Huge lavish and very exclusive buildings are hemmed in and everything is shuttered, some without backup generators and no functional life-flow happening. Just blocks away is the unfinished, 1776 foot-high Freedom Tower due for completion sometime next year, God willing!
Huge swathes of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens next to the Atlantic Ocean are black at night—as if there were none of the millions of people burning candles and trying to stay warm in their homes. A few brethren are without power, but can use their cars to charge their cell phones. One 60 year old member on dialysis had to have special emergency vehicles take him to and from the hospital with only partial treatments because some facilities are not operating and the demand is huge. He and his married children and grandchildren are happy to be in upper Manhattan apartments and the nearby Bronx with food and heat at night even though they are cramped in quarters most of us under normal conditions would find acceptable. Another member who is an RN and professor of Nursing in Brooklyn’s VA hospital cannot work because the hospital is flooded. The huge Bellevue Hospital in Lower Manhattan was emptied yesterday when it was considered too medically dangerous to continue without power and with millions of gallons of water in the basement.
Please pray for our brethren in New York City and the Northeast generally. There is much more to come, and as the brethren here know from Bible prophecy, we are all moving into times that will try men’s (and women’s) souls. The brethren are fine, but appreciate being a part of a very vibrant, praying United Church of God. We will keep you updated.