Friday, November 2, 2012


I haven't seen the destruction in New York firsthand. My town was more or less spared by Hurricane Sandy. Trees and power lines down, power out for a couple of days, no major flooding. But I lived in New York City for eight years, my sisters and cousins and friends still do, and I've been talking with my people.

They say that the New York City Marathon is scheduled to go on this Sunday, less than a week after lives and neighborhoods were destroyed by the storm. The power is still out. Transportation is a debacle. There's wreckage in places that hasn't even been touched yet. The race is set to go, and apparently people are angry.

The race ought to go on.

In 2001 I recall being angry. Vindictive. Scared. I thought maybe the marathon would devalue my grief. That a celebration of life so soon after death would be disloyal to the dead. That I might forget, and we were very clearly told to NEVER FORGET.

But I went out to cheer for the runners, cheer for the city, cheer for my living, cheering friends around me eating bagels. In 2003, completely renewed -- a father, a runner, no longer a New Yorker -- I ran that race. I ran it again a couple of years later. Forget? Hardly.

The New York City Marathon is an annual heartbeat in a city that's all heart. If you're angry that the marathon is going on, remember what got you angry. That storm was unfair.

And one day taken from a cleanup and rebuilding that is going to take years is a small price, on top of the price already paid. More important, the marathon is an investment of spirit in a place that needs it. This marathon will be like the news of V-day. It will be like the end of the '68 blackout. It will be like -- well, it will be like the New York City Marathon in 2001.

This isn't an abstract thing, here. The marathon is a real thing. It saves lives. It redirects energy. The city is at a standstill? Not if you let tens of thousands of people run through it. You can't get anywhere? Yes you can. Use your feet. The power is out? The power is right there in front of you, taking in air and turning it into kinetic energy. You're going to tell the world that storm, blackout, and tragedy can shut New York down? You're going to tell people that the place they travel in droves to see is not as mighty as they think it is? New Yorkers: you live in the center of the universe. Light it up.

If you're angry, and you're sad, and you're frightened, make your way to the course on Sunday and let your emotions go. Cheer. Cry. Hand someone an orange. Let the brave men and women running that race -- many of whom also lost much during this storm -- let them help you remember to be alive.

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