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Facing Hurricane Irene

Facing Hurricane Irene

I went out for one more walk Saturday evening before Hurricane Irene hit Manhattan.

I'm just getting to know my new neighborhood Morningside Heights (where I'm a visiting professor at Columbia University in the Graduate School of Journalism this fall).

Walking was the only way around since the subways and buses were shut down at noon Saturday as a precautionary measure.

On the way down Amsterdam Avenue, I stopped at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Devine, the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of New York.

There were a handful of others inside the cathedral considered the fourth largest Christian church in the world.  It was just before 6 p.m. so there was enough time to say a quick prayer before Hurricane Irene arrived and the cathedral closed for the night.

A security guard ushered visitors out a side door. Walking south down Amsterdam Avenue my boyfriend and I stopped at a restaurant called SIP.

A sign outside the door caught my attention. "Hurricane Party, Open All Day & Night Saturday and Sunday. We are not afraid. Rain or shine SIP will be giving away free food all weekend from storm start til finish."

The place was packed and we squeezed in and found a table for two. They were giving away free appetizers and had Happy Hour drink specials. From the mood of the room you wouldn't think a hurricane was imminent.

Conversation around the room ranged from 9/11 to the Mexican drug war and World Cup soccer. When I asked a young couple whether they were prepared for the hurricane, they said they had only made a visit to the liquor store.

We were more prepared than that and had stockpiled canned goods and bottled water. By the time we left, a warm tropical rain was driving down on the city.

As we walked home, a man with a walker and an oversized suitcase was crying for help. He said he was just released from St. Luke's Hospital and needed a ride over the Triborough bridge.

I tried to hail a cab but he wouldn't take him. We got soaked in the rain until a cab finally agreed to to take him to where he was going for $20.

"God bless you," the man named Lewis said as we sent him off in the cab.

We went home and fell asleep watching the news. At 4 a.m. the strong winds rattled our 10th floor windows and woke us up. By 9 a.m. all seemed calm as the eye of the hurricane passed over Coney Island.

An hour later we ventured outside and walked around the Upper West Side. There were some downed trees, semi-flooded pathways but mostly smiles from New Yorkers grateful there wasn't more damage.

Watching the news Sunday afternoon and the terrible record flooding from New Jersey to Connecticut and Vermont made me realize how lucky we were to escape serious damaged on the island of Manhattan.

Link to a photo gallery here.

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