November 05, 2012

Buddy Shows Up

On Friday we made our way to the PSE&G (utility company) rescue center, where they were giving out water and 22-pound bags of ice, adjacent to a huge tent with crowded tables where people could charge devices and in a few lucky cases get online. In the afternoon I went downstairs to charge the phones but a few minutes after I started the generator went off, so I returned to the PSE&G tent to finish the job. It was a mob scene but I managed to find a few open outlets on a community power strip. While I was standing, watching the devices charge (obviously my tolerance for boring things already had changed), there was a commotion just outside the entrance. Five or six camera people and other technicians surrounding someone who I assumed was a politician … and then realized was Buddy, of TLC's "Cake Boss" fame. It had not escaped anyone's attention that this business that has capitalized on Hoboken had not opened or offered any services in the days following the storm. But now someone who identified himself as "the producer of a show called 'Cake Boss'" was declaring, "Buddy only cares about Hoboken, he only wants to help the town" blah blah blah. The next thing you know they open up a van and start bringing boxes and boxes of cookies into the tent. Buddy and the camera crew come in and start filming. Most of the people at the table where I was charging were diligently ignoring the whole scene, which I'm sure will be a "very special" episode in the upcoming season. They brought in so many cookies that eventually I took a box -- once I got home I realized 2 people could not eat all of them, and I ended up leaving most of them on a plate in our building lobby -- they were gone in minutes.

Saturday was much colder, which made us nervous. Time to put the heavy winter quilt on the bed. Although a few pockets of Hoboken had gotten power, the mayor was saying most people probably wouldn't get it back for several more days. I headed out early to check things out and to try to stock up on some provisions. My gym was open, and had posted a notice that members and their families could use the facilities -- good to know we could get a hot shower. CVS had reopened -- if one could survive on potato chips, that would be the store of choice. On the hunt for some kind of breakfast, I happened upon an oasis -- a small café a few blocks that was open for business, full menu and delicious smells coming from the kitchen. Strong coffee and an egg-on-baguette sandwich that brought tears to my eyes. Dinner that night came from one of the local pizza places that has been open in some form since at least Wednesday. Sausage and peppers never tasted better.

I pray that these small businesses (just to single out a few: Benny Tudino's, La Bouche, Vito's, Aspen Market) that are such a critical part of the Hoboken experience can survive this catastrophe and that the residents of this town will support them and reward them for their service and response in the wake of this awful event. I know I'll do my best to do so.

And then, late in the day on Saturday -- our building got power. The first thing we did after turning on the heat was make a big pot of coffee. We felt so lucky and relieved. At the same time our cell service returned to almost normal -- still no cable or Internet, however. On Sunday I packed up a cart with toiletries, blanket, and medical supplies and took the stuff over to Hoboken High School, which had been designated as the contribution center. It was a beautiful thing to see the constant stream of people of all ages bringing in everything from water to diapers to pillows. I saw tonight on Twitter that the city is saying that, for now, there are enough contributions -- only batteries and flashlights (and money) are needed. Amazing. [Note: If you want to target a donation to Hoboken or to New Jersey, the recommended sites are the New Jersey Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund or Rebuild Hoboken Relief Fund . ]

I'll be able to go to work on Monday, and now that we have power back in our neighborhood, I'll come home to a warm and dry apartment. But it will take me a long time to get the sound of the howling, battering wind that was so terrifying last Monday night out of my mind, and the scenes of destruction that I've seen in my town and in pictures from around the region continue to haunt me.

[What are financial services firms learning about the effectiveness of their disaster recovery plans? Read Sandy Highlights the Importance of Bank Disaster Recovery Plans]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & ...