Mrs. T and I returned to our place in Connecticut yesterday, turned on the TV, and saw what was happening in New York City, my other adopted hometown. Friends of mine who live there have been plunged into a daily misery that is shockingly new to them, and for the most part they’re unable to spread the word about their situation because they have no electricity. I grieve to behold their plight.
Train service from Connecticut to New York is limited and erratic. Even if we could get to our apartment in upper Manhattan, we’d be stuck there, since our subway stop is out of service. So here we sit, watching the news and marveling anew at the harshness of life–from a distance.
It happens that I was in Smalltown, U.S.A., on 9/11, and wasn’t able to fly back to New York for five agonizing days. Much the same thing is happening to me now. The experience, as I wrote not long afterward, was deeply unsettling:
I awoke to find myself a stranded man, unable to return to New York to share whatever its fate might be. Of course I had it easy, far more so than most of the thousands of other Americans who had been caught short on that bright Tuesday morning. Some of them were in the air, others in strange hotel rooms, but I was holed up with my mother in the small town where I had spent the first eighteen years of my life. My brother and his family lived just three blocks away. As exiles go, mine was to be both comforting and comfortable–and brief. But it was an exile all the same, and with every passing minute it grew harder to endure….
No doubt Dr. Johnson, that most cold-eyed and hard-headed of sages, would dismiss what I wrote back then as cant. None but a fool longs to share suffering needlessly, there being more than enough of it in one man’s lifetime to go around. That said, it still feels strange–and sad–to be exiled from a suffering New York City yet again.