This alternate history is by my sister, Rachel Schapira.
I’ve been wondering what the strategic plan is — is there one for storms? I’ve been looking around for some sort of strategic solutions.
Twelve days later Notebook went alone to a Community Board Meeting.
On the first page of her notebook it said
What is the strategic plan?
Where is the strategic plan?
Minutes read the minutes. They had tabled the discussion about closing the clinic. Old business. Argument about the clinic. Someone had brought a petition and someone had brought a cardboard trifold.
New business. New guidelines for block party registration, the projected end date for the construction on the canal had been pushed back.
“What is the strategic plan?”
“It is in the public records. Make an appointment with the clerk.” Cardboard Trifold gave Notebook their number, “if you find out what the plan is, let me know”
Notebook made an appointment with The Clerk and in the records it said “in the case of a storm emergency, block party permits would be considered null and void.” The Clerk said “most of that planning happens at the state level.” Notebook called the the governors office, and was directed to a PDF pamphlet that said to Make Sure You Have A Plan. It is very important, it said, to make sure you have a plan.
Notebook called a meeting.
Purple Sweater said “can we trust that state and federal agencies are developing comprehensive plans for all kinds of contingencies?”
Cardboard Trifold said “but even say they are, how can all those plans be the best if they don’t involve us being informed and ready starting now?”
So they all said “Ok” and they started writing their own pieces, and sent them in to the governor’s office with notes that said “I don’t know what your plan is for a [hurricane][sheep illness][local drought][regional drought] but here is how I will be preparing [starting now][in the meantime][with my church][with my family][with the tools I have][in the time I have]. So [like it or not] add that into your plan as starting now.
And from there
“Well if you’re overnight housing for shuttled volunteers… I’ll make sure that’s on my informational fliers. Just tell me what it should say.
“And if you’re daycare and legal aid at the library I’ll make sure you have a bunch of fliers there.”
So when the hurricane got downgraded to a superstorm, then back up to a hurricane, then the phone lines got clogged up with emergency workers, a lot of people already knew what they were going to do.
The color system:
-Spanish/English translators wore blue shirts with “ESPAÑOL” in sharpie
-People who knew where you could find the heads of lots of different teams wore yellow
-A kid got sick eating tautog fish from the river before Purple Sweater put up signs about how the storm had stirred up contaminated sediments.
-On Tuesday, Petition’s intake team ran out of room and stacked cases of water to the ceiling. Wednesday morning they burst under their own weight.
-Somebody threw out a lunch-worth of hardboiled eggs because they thought they’d gone bad.
What went right:
-The color system
-Sudden emergence of orange and green shirts translating ASL and Chinese
-The thing where the state relief workers showed up 2 days later from an area that was hit harder. They looked around, and talked to the yellow shirts, and talked to Notebook, and some of them changed into blue shirts, and someone could cook pots of chili, and someone could answer questions about replacement food stamps when everything in your fridge had gone with the power 3 times in 4 days. And Purple Sweater grinned like a tautog at Food Stamps, “I’m glad you’re here. You’re part of our strategy. You’re part of our plan.”