In 2012 I was at a conference in New York City when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. It was an interesting experience, filled with learning and dispelling many negative opinions I’d heard about New Yorkers. The people there were amazing and very compassionate.
Thanks to Sandy, I was stranded in the city for three days longer than I had planned. On the third day, I called Amtrak and a computer generated voice said that the 7:00 am train to Providence was running on time. At 5a.m. in the pitch dark (because most of the city was out of power), I made my way down three flights of stairs with a suitcase and a lighter sure that a zombie was going to jump out at any moment. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.
After a wild cab ride thru oddly busy streets, the driver dropped me in front of Penn Station…which was closed and surrounded by police tape. I called Amtrak and was told that no trains would be running that day and that they had no idea when they would be running again. Awesome…
Thankfully after walking around a bit, I found a Dunkin Donuts that actually had power and was open (yay!). I gently climbed over another stranded traveler (or possible homeless person) that was sleeping on the front steps, and was kindly guided to a wall outlet where I could charge my almost empty cell phone battery. While sipping my coffee, I searched the bus lines and flights for ways to get home. Long story short, one of the airlines showed a ticket available to Providence from LaGuardia. For some reason I couldn’t purchase it over my cell phone so I hailed a cab to take me to the airport…which was closed, with the exit ramp barricaded off.
After some joking which turned to serious conversation about the cabby driving me to Warwick RI, I was on my way home. During the car ride the cabbie whose name I wish I could remember talked to me about his life in Egypt and how much he loved being here in America. We talked about how different life is between the two countries, how there’s so much opportunity here in America, and how the people in Egypt seem to age so much more quickly due to the difficulty of life there. Then he talked about his parents. He told me how excited his father was the first time he was able to vote. He stood in line for three hours to cast his ballot and he was so proud that he called his son right away. It was a historic moment for him. His dad had been told during a previous election to “go home, you don’t need to vote,” by police stationed at the polling station.
That really struck me. I found myself wondering if I would stand in line for three hours to vote. It also made me realize just how fortunate I am to live in a country that gives me the freedom to vote. So often we hear about voting being a “civic duty.” Sitting in the cab on the way home that day, I came to realize it is so much more. It’s a privilege and a way of honoring all those who keep our freedoms, rights and privileges safe for us.
Today as I went to vote I thought about that and how grateful I am to have this privilege.