gas lines (Photo credit: SpecialKRB)
It appears we have gone back to gas rationing in this country. No, not everywhere, but for millions of people in NY City and Long Island and New Jersey, people will once again have to pay attention to the number on their license plate. The last number of your plate determines whether you can buy gas on even or odd days. NYC Mayor Bloomberg signed an emergency order on Thursday, and the gas rationing is to begin on Friday with odd-numbered plates.
His website quotes, “Last week’s storm hit the fuel network hard – and knocked out critical infrastructure needed to distribute gasoline… Even as the region’s petroleum infrastructure slowly returns to normal, the gasoline supply remains a real problem for thousands of New York drivers. Earlier today, I signed an emergency order to alternate the days that drivers can purchase gas, which is the best way to cut down the lines and help customers buy gas faster.”
Of course, this doesn’t answer the question of the thousands of people waiting on foot in line with 5-gallon cans to run their generators. This doesn’t account for the out-of-towners that need the gas to help the residents, to drive to locations and deliver the food, water, clothing, and other goods collected from the rest of us in the nation. The pictures of the lines are unbelievable. They remind one of another time.
Those of you over the age of 40 will remember the gas lines of the mid-1970s. At the time, we imported over half of our oil supply from the Middle East. Our alliance with Israel caused those oil-rich Arab nations that attacked Israel to cut off all shipments of oil to the US. The gas-guzzlers we were driving at the time exacerbated the problem. Cars were lined up around the block. Gas rationing was nationwide. Patience was stretched thin and tempers flared. Violence ensued.
One can only hope the gas problems in NY and NJ, created by the devastating effects of Superstorm Sandy, will not have the same results. Most of us are not affected. Most of us can only sit in front of our televisions, or in front of our computers, and look at pictures of the unbelievable scenes being played out before us.
When a tornado ripped through my state, through my neighborhood – in fact, directly over my house – I witnessed first hand the effects weather can bring. My daughter and I felt like we were living in a war zone. Everywhere we looked we saw torn up houses, overturned or crushed cars, uprooted trees, strewn belongings, and debris – so much debris. I even had to show my ID to get into my own neighborhood. You can still see the damage in the trees, now dead and overgrown with vines. You can still see it in the houses – the ones not being repaired or torn down, as the owners do not have insurance, or did not have the money up front (to be reimbursed later by the insurance companies), or did not have the inclination to start over.
The first time I saw anything like this was in my childhood, from the blizzard of ’78. Then I moved to northern Florida just in time for Hurricane Frederick. With the spread of the Internet, I have seen through pictures and video the devastation of a tsunami in Japan, and earthquakes around the world. I have witnessed the devastation in my father’s Vermont neighborhood due to Hurricane Irene. On business trips, I have seen the damage done to hundreds of acres of crops in upstate New York. I watched many of our trees in western Massachusetts, weak from the tornado, crumble under the weight of the freak snowstorm on Halloween last year. What I didn’t see firsthand, I saw on the television and the Internet. And now this.
We are becoming a society of PTSD sufferers. I watched the Twin Towers fall at least one hundred times in September of 2001. I cried for the thousands that died. I cried for the people swept out to sea during the tsunami in Japan. I cried for the loss of life for all of the earthquakes, volcanoes, bombings, wars, you name it.
But I am glad that I cry for them. I would much rather suffer PTSD, possibly over-reacting to every warning we receive on the Internet and the television, than be desensitized by it all. I love that people are reporting random acts of kindness after Sandy. I just hope we can keep it up. I hope that we don’t turn to violence. I hope that we keep helping each other – that we cross all political, socio-economic, racial, gender, ethnic, age – all social boundaries, to help our fellow man. That is my hope for the future, and for today.
So, if you haven’t already, find a shelter that can use your old clothes, coats, hats, mittens. Or donate some food, and your time, to your local food pantry. Or donate money to the relief effort, or to save starving children somewhere in the world. Just start somewhere. And start now.