It is often said that society wins when common sense prevails. It does not matter which side you may take up on a particular subject. The right decision should be based on what is best for the overall good. That was the cross road that New York City found itself in when it came to whether it should cancel this year’s ING Marathon. After holding steadfast that the race would go on, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg conceded and reluctantly put the event on hold at the 12th hour.
Many felt that this was the right thing to do. And years down the road Mayor Bloomberg will come to the realization that it was best for the city and this was a blessing in disguise.
One could tell that the Mayor did not cancel the race. But as the city was in the midst of digging itself out of the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy, it was clear that it should not be hosting such a massive event. Yes, the Marathon could have been used as a rallying cry to demonstrate our resolve and toughness, but there was too much despair throughout the tri-state area for the city to be devoting the resources needed to pull off an event of that magnitude.
Some of the images that have been broadcast and shown over the various forms of media remind folks of the scenes after Hurricane Katrina. Water was flowing down the streets of lower Manhattan as if it was an extension of the East River. Not only trees, but homes, were uprooted from the ground in Staten Island and Brooklyn. Parts of Queens looked like war zones. There was a home behind my house where a massive tree was uprooted and crashed on the property. It looked like a knife going a stick of butter.
Then to hear the horror stories of what some of our fellow New Yorkers have gone through over the past week just brought tears to your eyes. Just think what that poor mother, who had her two children ripped out of her hands by the raging waters in Staten Island, is going through. Many of our neighbors and friends were displaced from their homes. And when they were able to return to their homes, they found very little, if anything, to salvage. For those who just lost power or had to wait in long lines for gas, consider yourselves among the fortunate. Now how can you run a race through these neighborhoods?
One would think that the City would have been best served using some of the resources reserved for the Marathon to aide in the recovery process. You mean to tell me that you are transferring patients out of Bellevue Hospital and there are neighborhoods still in the dark, when you have thousands of generators along the route for the race? Think about all of the water that is normally handed out to the runners. Do you think that some of our residents could have used the thousands of gallons of water along with the food set aside for the event?
I know that the city took a huge financial hit by not holding the race and there were cries from businesses and Marathon participants for not holding the event. But their pain and sacrifices pale in comparison to some of the suffering our neighbors are going through.
During the September 11, 2001, recovery period, I saw first hand how the New York Yankees World Series run lifted the spirits of the first responders and the country as a whole. But this was a different situation. The same thing goes with still holding the Knicks, Nets and Giants games. Those games were held in a single location and it was easier to manage them.
And you know that the media’s focus would have been more on the devastation than the race. Instead of showing the beautiful scenes of the runners leaving the Verrazano Bridge in Staten Island or them coming around the perimeter of Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem, I could see them sensationalizing images of the still flooded areas or the damaged homes. And heaven forbid what would have happened if a fight broke out on one of those long gas lines and it was captured on film. Like I said, Bloomberg may look at this as one of the best decisions he has made during his tenure as mayor of this city.
The Marathon is one of my favorite events to cover. I also have worked with the New York City Road Runners Club in various capacities associated with the event. But this would have been a tough assignment for numerous reasons.
A week after the race was to be held, some people in this City and its surrounding suburbs are still in the dark. Lines for gas are up to a mile long and we still do not know how many lives this storm took. Running a Marathon against this backdrop would not have been a good look.