As I write this in the wake of the worst natural disaster to hit our country in recorded history followed by a nor-easter adding insult to injury only a week later. I had been without electricity for twelve days having just got back my lights heat and hot water. Many people I know are still without any of those things and some might not have them for weeks. One thing that I will remain with me is to never take what I have for granted ever again.
On October 28th I went to my parents’ house in Long beach with my wife and children for brunch to celebrate my 34th birthday. We knew a hurricane was coming but we never thought it would be as devastating as it was. Just over 24 hours after I left my parents and headed inland back to my home, Sandy hit with the force of a monster. 3o foot waves crashed over the boardwalk and into the street. Long Beach is a barrier island and that night the bay and the ocean met, so that literally the entire town was in the Atlantic Ocean. My parents while still in their home, because they refused to evacuate, found the first floor of their home submerged under four feet of ocean. Many of my friends lost everything.
I did not know any of this until later in the evening when we had lost power and cell service was horrible. I finally got hold of my parents and discovered they were at a friend’s home about 15 miles north of Long Beach with three other family’s all who had lost their home to Sandy.
The looters started Tuesday morning after the storm at which point my father asked me to take him home to get his valuables knowing full well that it would be a while before he would return to live there if ever. That night I drove with him back to the place in which I grew up. There was not a single light in sight and even with my brights on it was darker then dark I did not recognize a thing. Driving down the main road into town I saw cars parked in strange positions and I quickly realized, they had been moved by the canals as they rose and submerged the streets. On top of many of those cars were boats. There were large boats sitting on top of other boats sitting in the middle of the street. Wires were down everywhere and this is when I realized the impact of this storm. The town that I grew up in, came of age in, had my first girlfriend, and went to school it was all destroyed. Driving into town I saw huge chunks of the boardwalk on people’s lawns military vehicles policing the streets and the police enforcing a curfew that at that moment I was in violation of. I was almost arrested for the crime of going home. My neighborhood was a warzone.
But the worst was when I entered my parents’ home. The place you grew up in is like a sanctuary to any adult if you are as lucky as me to be able to go back. But this was not that home. I felt in the pit of my stomach a fear, at this point whoever was in town was desperate having no running water, no heat, and no lights I had no idea if there was a stranger or looter in my house I could not see two feet in front of my face even with the flash lights. My sanctuary was a grave yard.
In the days that followed Long Island has developed a new lexicon, with phrases that have entered our daily speech like “Do you have power?” or “Did you find gas?” There are only a few gas stations that are pumping gas because so many don’t have electricity. Watching people stand on line with gas cans in the cold has become the new normal. Waiting in line for only an hour to get gas has become something to brag about. Gas stations receive deliveries of gas accompanied by a military escort and there are police at every gas station. Tempers are running high and people are exhausted by the predicament that they find themselves in. It is getting colder every day with tempertures dropping into the 30’s as Sandy was the only thing between Fall and Winter. At our jobs we congratulate each other when our colleagues receive calls from neighbors that their power is back on. This is the wealthiest country in the world and we are congratulating ourselves that our homes have electricity again as if we live in a third world country. And I find it ironic that we keep waiting for our power to be turned on because the whole time it is the lack of power that we all feel because nothing is in our control anymore. But we without power are the lucky ones, compared to those without homes. We all sit and wait for the world to return to normal. The best thing we can do is try to regain our routines, go to work take our kids to school, anything that gets us closer to normal.