At the beginning of July, a house collapsed just a couple of blocks from my home. And at the end of the month, lightning struck a neighborhood church steeple, dislodging debris that fell and killed a man who was walking by.
On our block, it still looks like the usual summer here in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, with kids running in and out of each other’s houses and backyards, and neighbors keeping a gentle eye from their stoops. But we’re all a little sad and nervous right now. We don’t want to think about how we all depend on each other: We live in rows of old brownstones, each leaning on the one next door. Take away the house on either side, and ours would fall.
Here, where the walls between houses are more like the walls between rooms, we learn to politely ignore each other’s lives. We don’t listen when the next-door neighbors decide to tack up a new picture on their bedroom wall, when they vacuum, and when they have a whopper of a fight. Even now, no one is quizzing their neighbors — although we’re all hoping they’ve been tackling all necessary upkeep. These houses have been here since the late 1800’s, so it feels like they’ll stand forever. But without a little help, they won’t. And once they fall, it’s like there was never anything here.