I am still coming out of shock, or something like it, but I thought that the experience of Sandy was something that needed to be shared. It is my hope that perhaps the act of writing about it will be cathartic and might cleanse the stress from my system. I have never been so worn or exhausted as I was when I came back to my apartment in NJ yesterday so please forgive my writing if there are errors.
One minute it was dry and the next the water was there. Everywhere. Like a horror movie coming up from the floor boards. And it was rising so fast, too fast. I grabbed all the things we might need—medicine, food, water, clothes, I moved the dog food so it wouldn’t get wet. I sent the Nana and her dog upstairs. I couldn’t think, I could only move with the adrenaline taking over. Everything was upstairs in less than five minutes. Except Nana’s cane. And so back down I went and at the bottom of the stairs looking into the water that was now six inches deep, I realized something. Murky is a color and a smell and a sound all at once. Murky is green brown water reeking of sea spray and wood rot. It sounds like a river or an ocean, all the water moving, lethal. I rolled up my pants and back in I went; it was frigid and frightening. I got the cane and went back upstairs. We laid down to rest, but sleep isn’t possible when a hurricane is roaring at your window and its waters are in your home creeping ever higher.
In the morning, the water was gone like waking up from a bad dream. Only it left behind debris, in the house, the street, the cars. Things were not where they should have been—trees, trailers, boats. And it smelled like wet socks and dead hamsters and mud. And so began the cleanup—the in and out rhythm of removing the objects of a life and throwing them away. That rhythm defined our lives for the next five days as much as the sunlight did. We had three houses to remove contents from; I welcomed the work as a distraction, a simple achievable task in all the chaos.
In my sleepy little beach town, every single house was flooded. All the contents lining the streets. Bags upon bags of trash, furniture, toys. Electricity had been out since the storm and when I left, ten days later, it still had not been restored. The world is weird unlit, without street lights or anything but the cold aloof stars in the sky to light the night. They said it might be 4-6 weeks before our town has electricity restored. On day 6, they turned off the gas too. All means of cooking and our last hope of heat was gone in a blink. The gas will be off at least a week. The only comparison I can give you is World War II London. At night, my Nana, my sister and myself sat in a dark living room lit only by candles and listened to the news over the radio as I knitted a scarf to keep my hands busy, to keep my head from thinking.
When I say people are struggling, I mean for survival. They are trying to stay warm, and safe, and fed. We were lucky that one of five of our cars survived and we can get around to procure food and the goods we need. We are lucky to have family nearby where we can take showers. We are lucky I was able to order propane heaters on Amazon and get them before the Nor’easter brought snow on Wednesday. We were lucky. Others are not.
With Thanksgiving only two weeks away, there are thousands who are without homes and who will not have a Thanksgiving. If you are able to, please donate what you can—-to the Red Cross who provided hot meals on the ground (of which I partook) or to a local charity that is providing thanksgiving meals in Long Beach, NY.
This Thanksgiving please be thankful for what you have—-heat, electricity, hot food, warm showers, safe shelter, and a home filled with the items of the life you have built.
You can view my photos of the storm and some of the damage here.
So many friends and loved ones have reached out with thoughts and prayers and messages of hope and offers of assistance. Thank you. Each and every one of those is a healing balm.
P.S. The title of this post is taking from this song by Something Corporate.