As the death toll grows in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and as devastated communities try to dig out the rubble without power, heat or running water, a very public and heated debate is going on about whether the New York City Marathon should go on as scheduled on Sunday, November 4. Emotional calls to postpone and cancel the race are hard to argue with - people are grieving and suffering. And then there are concerns about diversion of personnel and resources to support the race on Sunday.
I debated whether to withdraw and spend the day volunteering, delivering water, batteries and other essentials to people still without some of the most basic essentials. It’s difficult to think about running in this marathon while they’re still searching for survivors and discovering bodies. People have lost their homes and loved ones. Rain is in the forecast and temperatures are dropping.
I’ve decided that I am going to run in the race, as planned. It wasn’t an easy decision.
I don’t have a good response to people who think putting on the marathon is unconscionable, other than to say that I’m not going to toss out any platitudes about how life must go on, and that we need to show that we will overcome.
What I am going to do is volunteer tomorrow with CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, whose staff and members have been providing relief and information to low-income residents of Chinatown, many of whom are elderly and live in high-rise buildings with no power, heat or running water. Since Tuesday, CAAAV has been providing critical supplies to residents in the Chinatown area, distributing flashlights, water, and using their generator to allow people to charge their cell phones. They even had to face down the NYPD, which wanted to shut down their relief efforts, but ultimately relented.
I’m also running the marathon to raise money for CAAAV.* I was deeply involved in CAAAV for many years - I owe a lot to CAAAV for opening my eyes to the injustices that low-income immigrant communities face, and for showing me the power of community organizing. CAAAV’s response in the wake of Sandy has provided a lifeline for hundreds of low-income Chinatown residents who have been cut off, and if you can, please visit my donation page and give what you can to ensure that they’re able to continue the critical work they’re doing. The race is only two days away, but you'll be able to keep donating even after the event on Sunday.
Once again, here's the link to the donation page: Sandy Relief - Chinatown NYC
Thanks, everyone. Stay safe, and please help, however you can.
*To those who have already contributed to my fundraising drive to raise money for Team for Kids, thank you - from the bottom of my heart - thank you. I’m still running the marathon for Team for Kids - I still care very deeply about the health and well-being of youth in low-income communities who don’t have access to athletic programs or healthy food. I know that the Team, and the New York Road Runners, who organize the marathon, are supporting all efforts to raise money for Sandy relief efforts.
On Friday, the mayor's office and the New York Road Runners announced that the 2012 NYC Marathon has been canceled due to mounting opposition to holding the race. The intention of holding the marathon in the aftermath of Sandy was to bring the city together, and it was clear that the race had become a divisive issue.
Here's something I posted to Facebook earlier today that captures my feelings about the turn of events: