For better or for worse I grew up on country music. Long story. For the past week and a half the refrain, “I am a lineman for the county,” from Glenn Campbell’s Wichita Lineman has been running through my head. The lyrics were penned by the great Jimmy Webb, who has made Long Island his home, and they resonate with me every time I see crews from around the nation struggling to repair our grid in what can only be described as horrific conditions.
The grid. Such a messy and incongruous mess of belching plants, substations, poles and lines that criss-cross the Island and provide “juice” to our homes and businesses. Juice that we take for granted under normal circumstances. Juice that we realize we cannot possibly live without at times like these. I’m writing this letter to our readers from the Long Island Press’ third location in 10 days. Mother Nature’s howling surrogate, Sandy, knocked out the power in our Syosset headquarters last week, which prevented us from publishing an edition altogether as our reporters spread out across LI to provide updates as often as possible to Long Islanders desperate to connect with one another and comprehend what had occurred.
Mother Nature then saw fit to deliver a further insult during this week’s storm by knocking out the power at our backup location in Garden City while we were on deadline. Undaunted, our staff wrapped up our computers and servers and brought them to Webair, the secure data center that hosts the Press’ website, also based in Garden City. So allow me to thank Adam Schwam from our IT company, Sandwire, for his heroic efforts and the Sandwire staff for graciously accommodating our entire team. Kudos as well to the good people at Webair for welcoming our bedouin family without hesitation and bringing us in from the snow and the cold. If you are reading these words in the printed edition of the Press, they are the reason.
To say this has been a punishing week for the Island and the region is a laughable understatement. But the determination and grit exhibited by those who were affected by the storms has been humbling. There will be plenty of time to Monday morning quarterback the response by our public officials and municipalities but suffice to say we are all united in our desire to heal and rebuild.
This was a paradigm shift for Long Island that will need to be studied and reacted to swiftly. The time to be proactive has passed. How we move forward from this point will say everything about our chances to construct a sustainable economic, environmental and secure future for the next generation of Long Islanders.
As a nation, we chose to hold tight to hope that was born in 2008 and not risk recalibrating our course. I have been vocal enough already with respect to the election, but I will make the following observation: Women are politically alive and empowered in the United States. This was the most positive development that could have occurred to stem the misogynistic tide of barbarism that has crept into the consciousness of the GOP.
As a man, these words carry no irony as I write them on behalf of my daughters who will hopefully inherit a world where history marks this election as a new beginning for America’s herstory.
And as for the “linemen for the county,” thank you for doing your best to re-electrify the grid and keep us warm. No doubt you have felt the wrath of those who waited the longest for power, but our rational selves know this is a larger problem and one we must face up to collectively. All of our hearts are broken by what we have witnessed in our seaside communities. All of our might belongs to them in the days, months and years ahead.
Finally, I must be self-indulgent for a moment and take the opportunity to thank the members of the Long Island Press staff who worked tirelessly to update the Island with quality, necessary information in our time of need. I marvel not only at the ability of our staffers but their commitment to our vocation. You are giants.