I was living in Marine Park, Brooklyn, when Hurricane Sandy struck, but I was drawn to the affected areas, especially Rockaway. My typical day began at 7 am and ended after midnight. There were Police Commissioner briefings in the morning, but after I would spend my time up and down the blocks of Rockaway, looking for opportunities to help.
The NYPD Transit Bureau had 2,600 police officers, but with the transit system shut down our mission shifted, especially in the Rockaways and Coney Island, where officers would provide whatever support they could; transports, securing resources to help empty out the basements of homes that were almost in ruin, providing electric space heaters, etc. In all of the despair it was a good feeling to drive up and down the blocks with our windows down and when we heard someone's generator running, get out and ask if they wanted some space heaters. Within a few minutes they would have enough to heat their home. Those small offerings were more empowering and rewarding for us than the people getting the heaters.
There were four officers in my team who, among the many other things they did for me, also drove me, taking turns each day. They had been with me in hospice visits, so many funerals; sometimes for children. I was appreciative and proud of them, because they were able to join me in these places of pain and, because I believed that although they were each about fifteen or twenty years younger than I, they were somehow accelerating their spiritual growth because they were courageous enough to take part in those visits.
But it was different those days after Hurricane Sandy. Every day when I got in the car with each of them, I sensed that they were in pain. I would turn to and ask how they were doing and they would look over at me and sometimes just shake their heads and say, "It's pretty bad Chief." Every day we saw pain in peoples faces, sometimes standing in front of their homes bewildered, barely functioning, with a basement and living room full of water, and not knowing what to do next. As the days and weeks went by, the front of every home had piles of things taken out of the house, once treasured possessions, now waiting to be taken by sanitation to a landfill. What we were witnessing, so many people deeply affected by this historic catastrophic event, was a painful experience unlike any other.
One night I parked my truck after midnight near my house, and I looked up and saw the beautiful site of Jupiter, just to the left of the crescent Moon. I stopped there in the middle of Avenue R and started typing into my phone. Over the next couple of days I tweaked that text to myself just a bit and came up with my poem, "Perfect Order." Those words would become a source of comfort for me whenever I felt pain, personal or shared. So many times I have opened my phone to reread them, and they soothed me.
The impact of that storm will be carried by those affected by it for the rest of their lives. The trauma will stay with so many. On this anniversary of that event that impacted so much of our continent so deeply, I share those words that brought me comfort that night, and since. I'm sharing this poem with respect and love for all of those who suffered through those days, and for each of us who have ever felt overwhelmed by the pain that is sometimes around us.
The hurricane just passed us
Left its mark
Deaths and loss
Pain and anguish
Winds and tides took so much
So much sadness, despair
For months to come
And yet tonight, Jupiter and our Moon
Right there with each other
For each of us to see
Thoughts as I look up
They are there whatever the weather
The pain we may be feeling
A crisis we may be facing
And they reveal perfect order
They each know where the other is
They each are where they should be
Just when they need to be
For each other
Peace and order we seek in our lives
In our solar system
Our stars, planets
Jupiter, and our Moon tonight
I seek that order, that perfect order
I wish it for all
All who are in such pain
I wish that perfect relationship
For each of us
October 31, 2012
Joe Fox is a Motivational Speaker, Leadership & Life Coach, Chief of Staff, Silverseal Security, U.S. Department of Justice Medal of Valor Review Board Member, Board of Directors, 9/11/01 Tribute Park, Board of Directors, 5Star Life Insurance Company, and former NYPD Transit Chief