My city. It was terrible to watch the water sweep in and the lights to flicker out in my beloved New York last Monday. I was so worried about my friends, scattered throughout all 5 boroughs and New Jersey, but especially those in flood zones. If I was still living in my apartment on the Upper East Side, I would not have had to evacuate, but I would have been right on the cusp. I stayed up almost all night refreshing facebook, twitter, the NY Times, anything to tell me what was going on. And Tuesday morning, when the wind and water subsided, I waited for friends to check in, to tell me what they saw, to tell me if their homes were okay, how they were coping without power. The miracle of internet on phones.
And all my friends eventually checked in. Except one.
I found out through a mutual friend that one of my friends from the Obama ’08 campaign was gone, taken by a falling tree in Brooklyn along with her friend, on Monday night. Jessie Streich-Kest was a sweet and unique girl, only 24, only starting her career as a teacher. I spent so much time with her during the campaign, we petitioned together, got lunch for each other, and sat with each other in the office listening to Pandora for what felt like years, but was only a few months.
She was such an interesting person, a born activist and an irrepressible dog-lover, never afraid to go up to someone with a petition or to ask if she could pet their puppy. My admiration for her as a volunteer was tremendous. She and I remained friends after the campaign, whenever she was in town on breaks from UPenn or I was back from whatever state I’d been campaigning in, we’d get lunch, see movies, go shopping. My husband and I, despite being 8+ years older and having very different lives, kept in touch with her because she was so interesting and charming. Jessie and I worked on the midterm elections, for different candidates in the same column, and she finished up at school. When I left NYC, I hoped she would come visit me in Montreal. I hoped I would visit NYC more often to see her and my other friends. My last visit, Jessie and I played phone tag the entire trip and I will regret those missed calls forever.
And I’ll miss her so much. Her students, her friends, her family, her brother, and her parents have suffered an unfathomable loss and my heart breaks for them. I hope they can continue to fight for all the great causes for which Jessie worked so hard. My condolences to her friend Jacob’s family and friends, even though we never met, I know a life-long friend of Jessie’s must have been a pretty amazing person indeed and what I’ve read about him recently completely confirms it. To give to their respective memorial funds click HERE.
Many of my friends in NYC, especially those in lower Manhattan, are still without power, without access to their homes, without transit options. I wish there were some way I could help them. They are tenacious people and I know they’ll recover, again, from what feels like injury to a city only recently healed.
The days ahead for the people in NYC and along the coasts, those that lost their friends and family, will be so hard. Everything will seem too big. I wish them the best and am thinking of them always.
“What saves man is to take a step. And another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it.”
Antoine de St Exupery