New York, NY–Recently someone asked me if it was true that most people that joined Occupy did so for “selfish” reasons, meaning their lost home, lack of steady employment or underutilized college degree. I told her I thought for some it might have started that way, but Occupy was a place where those people had encountered others like them, where they had built a community, and where they had come to understand that their personal grievances were tied to a larger structural failure.
These words now echo in my mind as I sit in the freezing darkness of the Rockaways, after less than a week of relief work with the communities here that were devastated by superstorm Sandy.
I’m sitting in the dark under the light of a tiny flashlight writing from the second floor of my beloved friend Heather’s house. I hear the buzzing of an infinite line of ambulances brought from all over the country by FEMA as they burn precious gas outside waiting in line to evacuate seniors from a nursing home in preparation for a new storm coming our way tomorrow.
I still remember all the work we put into fixing up this house when my friend decided to move out here last summer. I took the long train ride out here a couple of times to help her rip off carpeting, tweeze out staples from the floor, stop by the beach for a quick swim and then back to painting walls and building a library. So much work went into making this house a home.
Today I walked in surrounded by total darkness, to find myself in an emptied out living room. Around the corner, a hub of kindness and solidarity has been built in the last few days as Occupy Sandy Relief set up shop in order to put words into action and show what mutual aid really looks like.
It almost sounds unnecessary to recount the myriad encounters of the last few days, and the stories that accompany the flood of strangers that have become brothers and sisters in this enormous effort. I don’t want to fetishize their need or glorify our instinctive desire to lend a hand.
I just came out here to help my friend clean her house after the strong winds and high waters battered it, my friends from Occupy just happened to be around the corner.
Perhaps it’s just that the personal is political. Always. Blah, blah, blah.
I could hardly care less who my overlords are by tomorrow.
All I know is, there’s a storm coming tomorrow, and I need to make sure everyone is safe and warm.
-Sofia Gallisa Muriente-