The Heroes of the Hurricane

There are plenty of people who have behaved not just decently but positively heroically during and following Sandy's hit on New York City and the surrounding areas. Let's all take a moment to thank them for restoring our faith in humanity.

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While it's fun to laugh a little, and shake our heads a lot, at the clueless folks freaking out that they might not get their Starbucks during a hurricane, there are plenty of people who have behaved not just decently but positively heroically during and following Sandy's siege upon New York City and the surrounding areas. From the many offers I'm seeing on Twitter from lucky people who have power, Internet, and food and are happy to share it with those without, to the emergency responders who've been working many sleepless hours through very scary situations, to the teachers who volunteered at evacuation centers, to the city employees and Con Ed workers who've diligently kept going for the rest of us despite their own families and personal concerns, these are the people making us feel better about humanity in general. Good job, New York! Thanks, all. We'd like to pay special tribute to the following:

The nurses and medical professionals who evacuated patients from New York University's Langone Medical Center when their backup generator failed. Last night, when the power failed, approximately 1,000 hospital staffers (doctors, nurses, residents, and medical students), along with firefighters and police officers, carried some 260 patients down 15 flights of stairs, in the dark, with flashlights, to ambulances that transported them to other area hospitals. According to CNN, the hospital lost power around 7 p.m. Monday after lower floors and elevator banks filled with 10 to 12 feet of water, and though emergency generators kicked in, "two hours later, about 90% of that power went out, and the hospital decided to evacuate their patients." Evacuating hospital patients takes some time and much care, as one can imagine; as of 9 a.m. today 40 or so remained. Some of those evacuated last night were 20 babies from neonatal intensive care. Via CNN:

Four of the newborns were on respirators that were breathing for them, and when the power went out, each baby was carried down nine flights of stairs while a nurse manually squeezed a bag to deliver air to the baby's lungs.

From a first-person account of the situation via BoingBoing, patients too sick to walk "were painstakingly carried on plastic sleds — one by one — by teams of four to five people from as high up as the 17th floor."

Elmo. Soothing schoolkids and adults alike, Elmo went on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show Tuesday morning to explain Hurricane Sandy to people—he and "his mom" stocked up on peanut butter and canned tuna prior to the storm and afterward "got to help put Big Bird’s nest back together again,” he told everyone. Then he reminded them that he loves them. Aw. (Thanks to WNYC, too, for this.)

Lydia Callis, Mayor Bloomberg's sign language interpreter. Please don't call her "Mayor Bloomberg's sign-language lady," she has a name, and she is awesome. One of the tireless crew of New York City government employees working to inform people about what's happening and what to do in a time of Sandy, she's not only a vibrant, expressive communicator (even to those who don't know sign language; just watch, video below, she's on the left)—she's doing double duty by generating memes and inspiring tribute Tumblrs. If that's your thing. Via NPR's Mark Memmott, "her expressive style has fascinated many and provided a bit of a bright light amid all the dark news about Superstorm Sandy."

John Davitt, NY1 chief meteorologist, and his cohort. Davitt, who's weathered the storm right with us, looks incredibly tired and well-deserving of a good bit of rest, but as of this morning, he was still going. His NY1 bio explains, "John's most exciting story at NY1 was the Blizzard of '96," but we think it's time for an update. We'd like to add a shout-out to everyone at NY1, the reporters and newscasters, weather and traffic folks and people behind the scenes, who have managed to remain calm and reasonable even during the most trying times of the storm. As a plus, they have also, by and large, avoided standing in large rivers of water for lengthy amounts of time (those cable news reporters make us very, very nervous).

Let's add a hearty thanks to all the meteorologists who predicted starting last week that Sandy was going to be pretty much as she was, told us all to prepare, and have kept us posted throughout. As TNR's Nate Cohn writes, "Despite the odds, it was as early as last Tuesday when the European model showed Sandy transforming into an extraordinarily intense hybrid storm and making landfall in the mid-Atlantic. Back then, Sandy was a small and utterly conventional tropical cyclone off the northern coast of Venezuela." This is no small feat, it's "just about the highest accomplishment in forecasting." Those who called it: You can say, "We told you so," now. And final related kudos for modern technology.

There are, of course, other heroes we haven't heard of yet. If you come upon an inspiring story of someone who's doing or did something great in this storm, whether in or outside of New York, please share it. We want to give credit where credit is due, and, of course, our thanks.

NYU Hospital image via AP; John Davitt image via NY1.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.