Being in New York during Hurricane Irene was big news here in Chamberlain, South Dakota. We got lots of calls to find out if we were OK. A writer from the local paper even called me to get the scoop. We got 8 inches of rain and strong winds, but were not in any real danger. The inconvenience of canceled flights and not being able to hold the luncheons as we had planned were minor compared to the devastation so many people experienced from the storm. Our prayers go out to all the folks whose lives have been so directly impacted.
I flew in a day ahead of the rest of our group so I could go to a baseball game with some friends. The last time I was in Yankee Stadium, I was in junior high school and in the House that Ruth Built the monuments were still in the playing field. I enjoy baseball games because it’s laid back enough that you can really talk and visit throughout the evening and we had a gorgeous summer’s night to do so.
Thursday I waited for the students and chaperones to arrive, but every hour or so I got a new text message that they were still delayed in Detroit. Instead of arriving at noon with a chance for some sightseeing, they finally arrived just after midnight. Ashley and Angel were two tired 7th graders when they got up the next morning to speak to an enthusiastic crowd of about a hundred donors from the area.
Anne, one of our donors, lectures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and arranged to meet us that afternoon for a guided tour of a few highlights. Before we left St. Joseph’s Indian School, I asked Dave, our art teacher, to have the students look online at some of the museum’s treasures. Angel said she was most interested in seeing items from Ancient Greece and Rome. That was one of Anne’s favorite areas anyway, and with her insightful commentary and care to teach our students, the experience was unforgettable. We also saw pieces of Sioux beadwork that are in the museum.
We did get to see a play, The Lion King, thanks to another generous donor. I sat behind the students. Watching them lean forward with excitement to take in the music and pageantry and look all around the theater as the different animals processed down the aisles was very special for me. Theater can help you feel the wide range of human emotion and the human condition. The play took us through feelings of joy, laughter, fear, sadness, hope and inspiration.
We had lined up a ride to Brooklyn for the Saturday luncheon and with subways and trains shutting down at noon, only 7 of our 70 registered guests were able to come. The ones who were able to make it got very individualized attention! I did have a couple of special guests as well, my niece Allison and her fiancée Steve and got some quality time with them before the “crowd” arrived. One of my favorite moments came as we were talking about Lakota Language. Usually it’s the boys who sing in the drum group, but Angel knew all the words to the Flag Song, since we play it at the start of the school day. Though shy, she sang it for us (she had to cover her eyes and not look at everyone) in a gentle, beautiful voice.
We had to cancel Sunday’s Long Island event altogether. By then the storm was unleashing it’s full fury and we stayed put. Two women got on the hotel elevator with me. I said to them, “I think we’re in for an adventure!”
(Woman 1) “ All you can do is go with the flow”
(Woman 2) “I sure hope we don’t go with any flow!”
By Sunday afternoon the rains had passed, and though it was still gusty, many people came out and walked around. Almost everything was closed, and some of the stores even boarded up, but we walked around midtown Manhattan for a couple of hours, taken in many sites and landmarks. One place that was open was St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and we dropped in there for prayers of thanksgiving, and a look at the beauty of that sacred space.
Our flights Monday were canceled, but it turned out to be a great day in the city. We got on one of the double-decker tour busses early in the day and toured both downtown and uptown. We paid our respects at Ground Zero, looked out across the water at Lady Liberty and saw a TV film crew at work as we strolled through Greenwich Village. Later, we rode along Central Park and through Harlem. The students were wide-eyed taking it all in. Many of the buildings have more rooms than Chamberlain’s entire population!
We got home safe and sound last night with many memories and a few stories to tell.