I spent much of yesterday checking the live updates on The New York Times website, as well as Facebook, trying to keep up with friends and relatives in the city. Two of the families I know there have small children and at first they were mainly just trying to keep everyone entertained. Yesterday an evacuation took place, from Stuyvesant Town (a huge post-war Manhattan housing project), which had lost power, to somewhere in Long Island where they still had power. Still wondering about a lot of places...Staten Island, Breezy Point (where some of my husband's relatives had a summer house.)
I'm really not here to go into mourning, or to offer doom and gloom, though. I mean, look at the New Yorkers on tv, listen to them. Three of the subway tunnels are already pumped out. People are walking to work. There will probably be partial subway service tomorrow. I remember one year, when I was at NYU when it was suddenly discovered that the Williamsburg Bridge was in imminent danger of collapse, something everyone seemed to take in stride. The bridge was closed for a year and subway service was rerouted. For weeks after 9/11 there was no subway service to lower Manhattan. Somehow lines were rerouted, bus service filled in. At my first job in Mahattan one of the other employees reminisced one day about the great transit strike in the 1970s, and how everyone walked over the Brooklyn Bridge. "You got the feeling," he said, "that if you could survive that, you could survive anything."
It's very fashionable, particularly in dystopian scenarios, to see huge cites as vulnerable. No doubt, because of quirks of geography and history, they are. But huge cities are also very flexible. They have the will, the ability (and the financial incentives) to get things done, quickly.