“One year later” has been a common theme this week in the New York/ New Jersey area.
Since 1970, the New York City marathon took place on the first Sunday in November and had never been canceled until 2012 when Superstorm Sandy shut it down. The marathons itself have become iconic events for every major city in the country especially since the terrorist attacks at the Boston marathon earlier this year.
The winners of a marathon are professionals and the world’s most elite runners. For everybody else, it provides a sense of accomplishment. Simply finishing a marathon is an absolutely admirable feat. You run 26.2 miles and the biggest reward anyone expects is the thrill of crossing the finish line. Sure it’s a “race” but the event itself serves a different purpose. The symbolic nature of a marathon serves as a sense of overcoming something that is accompanied by ridiculous odds.
In a city that was put behind the eight-ball after the storm, it is almost perfect that the opportunity for thousands to run through the famed five boroughs has arrived a year later.
Oct. 29 marked the one year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. Everybody has their stories. I have mine. Compared to some others I’ve heard or seen firsthand, mine’s not too tragic, nor is it extremely interesting.
My story basically revolves around my parents and my older brother, Richie.
My father worked for over 35 years in the New York City education system. In his younger years, he found the time to run the NYC marathon 12 times.
I understand that anybody who has gotten a good look at me knows I’m not in the type of physical shape to properly pronounce the word marathon, let alone run one. Dad didn’t let me forget that, either. He left his medals in a display case on the wall of my bedroom.
He loved to tell me about how he busted his hump for a few hours on a Sunday just so some volunteer could put a medal around his sweaty neck in Central Park. It was a father showing his son’s that it’s ok to do something to be proud of.
In 2002, my parents bought a bungalow 500 yards off the water in Breezy Point, N.Y. They fell in love with the area and decided that this would be the place where they would spend the golden years of their retirement.
A decade later, that house, along with most of its neighbors was reduced to a pile of rubble. Horrified by the destruction in the small town that we as a family fell in love with, we got to work. We tried to pick up the pieces of our broken home and did our best to do the same for our neighbors.
The expression “the grass is always greener” applied in reverse to our situation. Sure, throwing out everything in my bedroom sucked but somebody always had it worse. At least we had a “house” to see.
Some of our neighbors had their homes burned to ash. A charred statue of the Virgin Mary stood proudly just blocks away.
Fast forward 12 months and my family is about a month away from spending the night in the exact spot that FEMA once labeled inhabitable with a red sticker.
New Yorkers aren’t known for backing down from a fight, but last year we took a punch that made us step back. One year later and we can see how much our mettle has been tested and we will understand that one day our journey will be completed. Whether the journey is 26.2 miles or rebuilding your home, come Sunday we will know that our city and our country are just plain tough.
Not all is restored, not even by a long shot. But when my parents get back into Breezy, they will know they have accomplished something to be proud of. When thousands of runners cross the Verrazano Bridge after the starting gun goes off, this city will know it has accomplished something to be proud of.
Gerard Gilberto is a senior journalism major from Staten Island, N.Y. and Breezy Point, N.Y. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.