November 4, 2012
A good weekend.
Still in the dark. No heat. Had been worried about upcoming forecasts for temperatures dipping below the 30’s, as the house was getting a bit colder each day. We’ve found ways to warm up.
There’s nothing more valuable than community when things get challenging, and There’s a lot of it going around. Everywhere, there are signs up to help: churches with signs out front saying ‘water, ice, food’ or ‘hot food and coffee’, and fire stations offering charging stations for cellphones. Target and Costco offered tables for charging computers, phones, whatever. My cashier at Target asked me if I would like to come to her house for ice when it turned out they’d sold out of the chemical ice packs I needed for my swelling knee. She said she’d gotten power back and would be happy to share. I was so touched by that.
I could see all this, because I’d finally been able to get gas. A friend gave me a tip that the local gas station was getting a delivery and would be opening at 8am. I went at 6, and there was already a line. By 7, the line stretched out behind me as far as I could see. By 730, I drove away with a full tank of gas, feeling newly free. Free to pick up supplies. Lowe’s had just gotten a delivery, and I picked up gas cans, batteries and water. Then, off to Target. Supplies were needed for the shore towns.
Information is so critical- and yet so hard to get, when phone lines, internet, and TV are cut-off. Our local mayor had been providing daily updates via a cell phone alert list and USPS about power status, school closures, gas availability and supply stations. Supplies were desperately needed for displaced families who had lost everything. They were collecting at several local parks and churches.
When we arrived at Thompson Park, the National Guard was there and highly organized about directing traffic, emptying out cars- and getting donations ready for delivery. You could see the supplies going into one door of the barn, and pallets of organized supplies separating food, water, clothes and blankets- out the other. It was impressive. They had students helping as well. Nice to see.
Next, we headed to St. Catherine’s church, where they were taking used clothing, blankets, towels, food and water-anything. We walked in to see dozens of tables and volunteers sorting and organizing huge piles of donations. It was great to see. And great to contribute to.
We were starting to see more and more lights and businesses open. 7/11 had no lights, but were open for business. The movie theater. A few restaurants. We picked one and had a warm lunch in a warm place. Nice. Then off to search for ice. We found it at a liquor store, where the owner said he’d gone to Brooklyn to get it himself, because he couldn’t get a delivery. I think we made his day- seeing us get that excited about ice. Believe it or not- the food I had in coolers had stayed cold for 4 days just with the extra ice I had from the freezer. Now I could buy some food for the next few days.
The Facebook community has been a powerful thing. It’s how we stayed in touch with friends and family so easily- locally and long distance. Last week, a friend posted ‘Gas?’ And got quick answers about where stations were open. Today, I asked if anyone who had power would invite me over to do a load of wash or point me towards an open laundromat- We were running out of clean, warm clothes. There were instant responses. A friend I had connected with recently that I haven’t seen in 10 years invited me right over. There was also an open laundromat, and the ‘tide’ truck in Eatontown where you could drop off your laundry, and they’d do it for you. I warmed up reconnecting with my old friend and had a wonderful afternoon.
Sometimes we think we’re too addicted to our technology, but it’s such a lifeline, too. We don’t all live in close communities where you can see everyone just by going out and about your business. It’s really been the source of my connectedness through this whole ordeal. We’re lucky to have them. Those of us who still do, that is.
As of today, 2.5 million people in the NY/Nj area are still without lights. 20,000 people are homeless. There’s a long way to go. But it’s encouraging to see so much goodwill, determination and good community going around. People are helping. Belmar, one of the Jersey shore’s most popular beaches, has a sign up today, painted on driftwood, saying, ‘thank you everyone, for helping Belmar.’
It’s a good start.