November 3, 2012
Today was a good day.
We are 5 days past hurricane Sandy, and we’re still in the dark. No lights. No heat. A bit nippy at night, especially tonight, going down into the 30’s. I’m sitting here by the fire, writing this on my ipad, wearing a down vest, down coat, ugg boots, and a scarf pulled over my head.
In the aftermath of the storm, we had no idea how bad it was. No one did, initially. We were glad to be safe, our house intact. We lost power as soon as the storm hit, so we were in the dark- no news. Cell phone service was limited- we couldn’t access the internet or even make calls, only texts, and with very slow delivery at that. Stranded at home, since all transportation to NYC was suspended, I felt news-deprived and isolated. My husband was able to get to work on tuesday- driving up and across the lawn to get around the fallen tree that blocked the driveway, taking detour after detour as he encountered tree littered roads, downed power lines, and debris. His reports were all the news I had for two days- and it was shocking. The shore- devastated. A massive water surge- flooding Staten Island, lower manhattan, subway tunnels and hoboken. A entire neighborhood in Queens, burned to the ground.
It was shocking to see our always strong, impervious manhattan vulnerable.
It was heartbreaking to start hearing some personal accounts: the woman who decided, too late, that she should evacuate with her children, the car stalling as it hit water, then getting out of the car and losing her grip on the children as the massive storm surge came. The woman on Montauk, who took her dog for a walk and never came home. They found her body the next day. My mailman, who reported seeing bodies floating the day after in Union Beach- just a few miles from here, a town that’s right on the water on the bay side. All so heartbreaking.
And then there are good stories. The off-duty fireman who evacuated late and heard the cries of a stranded family- who went back to help the entire family, the dog, and parakeet to safety. The people who donated their much needed batteries and gas to keep generators going so that the fish and animals at Jenkinsin’s aquarium could survive. A friend’s neighbor, who has been driving every night to Pennsylvania, to get gas for his entire neighborhood- coming back and distributing up to 25 gallons a day to neighbors for cars and generators. A neighbor offering a neighbor access to a generator. So many people helping each other out.
On day 3, we started seeing the images on our ipad and tablet. Boats piled up like tinker toys. Entire complexes of houses, thrown off their foundations and tilted or flattened- or moved altogether. Houses incongruously landed on roadways and bridges. And still, in the dark, we started seeing the full force of destruction Sandy had wreaked upon the NY/NJ area.
Something like 93% of NJ homes and businesses lost power with this storm. I started seeing the local impact when I tried to go out for gas. There wasn’t any. Stations that were listed as having some were sold out, almost instantly, because there were no deliveries coming in, and most stations couldn’t pump the gas they had, because they had no power. One station would fill only cans- no cars, and people were lined up for blocks to get a gallon of gas. There were no traffic lights. Crossing highway 35 to get to a gas station was a frightening experience- a 50 mph, 4 lane road. No police anywhere. The few convenience stores that opened were dark and took cash only. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before.
Also on day 3, people started getting in to my offices. Transportation was limited. The subways were mostly closed, tunnels flooded. Two employees walked across the 59th street bridge to get to the city; another employee living in flooded battery park, walked down the 8 flights of stairs in the dark, before wading through water in the basement to get his bike and ride to work.
Hardly anyone came in. There were no trains or busses from NJ or Westchester.
On day 4, a friend texted that busses were running, so I ventured to work for the first time, I was struck by the luxury of getting on a heated bus, after being cold for 3 days. I was relieved to see Times Square and midtown looking normal. It was reassuring to see signs of normalcy- lights and tourists, and open stores. At home, it was all still dark. No stores open. No gas. No ice.
The Jersey shore was completely devastated. Countless beaches, homes and entire towns were destroyed by this massive storm. And so many lives lost.
So, sitting here in the dark, by the fire, with my down coat and scarf and dwindling battery on my iPad, I feel lucky. My family is safe and my home intact. Sitting in the dark just isn’t so bad, in the context of all that’s happened. So it’s a good day. A very good day, indeed.
Though I will never take my lights or heat for granted, ever again.