RADIO PRODUCER AND WRITER
This morning I spoke to a traffic cop at a midtown Manhattan Starbucks. She had small dreadlocks matted to her head and a Jamaican accent. Her shift had started at 4 AM, she said, and would not end until 4 PM. But she could not leave until the next shift officer came in. If the second shift officer did not come in, she had to stay for the whole second shift. The law said that they could not work more than two shifts in a row. After that second twelve hour shift, she said, regardless of who came in, they had to let her go.
I asked her if traffic was bad. The worst, she said. The worst I’ve ever seen.
For her twelve hour shift, she stands in the middle of the street. She stands in front of oncoming buses and taxis and cars and bicycles, lurching and turning and accelerating, driving in the worst traffic they have ever seen. She directs drivers that tail past a red light before oncoming traffic, drivers that turn into any pocket of empty street. She puts her body in front of all that and waves her arms. She points, and expects that these impatient taxis and overflowing buses will turn in the direction of her fingers.
Pedestrians ask her questions that she does not have the answer to. Yesterday, she said, the buses were picking up at 57th. But because of congestion, today they pick up at 54th. The congestion stayed, and nobody knew where the buses were.
People don’t know how powerful water is, she said. Those poor kids. She clutched her head and knotted her hands. Water can pull a ring off your finger. It can take a chain off your neck. Those poor kids. The mother should have tied her kids to her pants. She should have used her belt. She should have tied them to her. Why did she open the door?
The police found the little boys’ bodies in the cattails at the end of a dead-end street. The police said their mother, Glenda Moore, 39, had packed them into her blue sport utility vehicle and was trying to flee the storm by driving to her sister’s home in Brooklyn.
The storm thwarted her getaway, first by stalling the engine, the police said.
Ms. Moore managed to step out of the S.U.V., taking 2-year-old Brendan in her arms and leading 4-year-old Connor by the hand. But a wave slammed into them, driving her and Brendan into the marsh and breaking her hold on Connor’s hand. Another wave carried him away moments later.
How are you holding up? I ask.
I never understood the zoning, she said. I live in Canarsie. She takes her pen and swipes a line across each side of her hand. My neighbor’s streets. She draws a line at her fingertips. My street.
My neighbor’s streets have trees on their streets. I always ask the homeowners association, at every meeting. Why don’t I get trees? They clean the air. They good for us. Why the neighbor’s street gets trees and I don’t? My street, they say, not zoned for trees.
My neighbors, all their trees fell. My neighbors houses, they all got flooded.
Thank god I don’t have trees. Thank God. Sometimes, she said, we don’t know what’s good for us.