Duke Diary Dispatch: In NYC, Smoke Descends and Masks Return

In his second week at an New York City internship, Khilan Walker gets up close and personal with wildfire smoke

New York City in a haze caused by smoke from Canadian wildfires

After sitting through four insightful presentations, one on NY laws related to custody and visitation and one on helping clients receive public benefits, I was honestly tired. I passed by the local Krispy Kreme and remembered I had 4 donuts left in my own box in my room. That almost made me smile, if it was not for this odd smell that was hogging all of my mind’s focus.  

Once I got home, I realized that this smell was the smoke of wildfires that were taking place in Canada. At first, I did not pay this any mind, and I swiped past the Instagram post that informed me. I remained inside my place relaxing the rest of the evening.  

 That next day when I woke up, I could tell that the smoke had got way worse. Not only could you smell it, but you could see it. The city looked the same, except now it had an orange, hazy filter on it. By now, my timeline was filled with news on what was happening. I grabbed my mask, cringing at the thought of having to put a mask back on, and headed to work. Despite the smoke smelling and looking so bad, the city barely slowed down. People were still out moving around, but everyone had subtle looks of shock and confusion on their faces.  

As day three of orientation began at SFF, I thought to myself, why did this have to happen now? That thought did not last long, as I tried to get rid of this selfishness. After all, I had plenty of facemasks, a place to stay inside, and much more. This smoke would not affect me as much as it probably would others. 

Nevertheless, the day went on. I attended a Sanctuary for Families Gala and Paddle Raising Auction on Pier Sixty, in which I volunteered. Over $300,000 was raised for Sanctuary for Families’ services and clients. I was able to attend the after party, filled with SFF staff, volunteers/interns, and the invited guests. From Seth Meyers to Al B. Sure, there were hundreds of seemingly successful people. I told myself I would network, but once the legendary DJ Flash got on the turntables, it seemed like all everyone, including myself, could do was dance.  

Leaving the event brought me back to the reality of the smokey outdoors, and I made my way home masked up.  As of now, the sky seems much clearer, and it seems as if the air quality is getting better. Although not as desirable as a sunset between skyscrapers, another spectacle has made my second week here in NYC memorable, for sure.