Today will be one full week since Hurricane Sandy barreled through the East Coast and changed lives forever. It will likely go down as the biggest storm to devastate our region. Given that case, it goes without saying that we are still recovering in the places that were devastated the most: the Rockaways, Staten Island, New Jersey, Coney Island, and my small town community of Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn. None of us were ready for the sheer brutality brought on by this storm.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that the New York City area has not been this shattered and distraught since 9/11. People are walking around like zombies here. Some volunteers and first responders haven’t been been home in days because they are just so inundated by the constant need for help from so many. Victims are still coming to grips with losing their family members and homes. Those less affected are dealing with immense financial loss and losing priceless family memories.
I am heartened by the millions of people who have reached out to all of us and I’m equally touched by the many emails and messages I have personally received from readers who just wanted to know we were OK.
We have no heat but power has been restored to us. Amazingly we are one of the handful of blocks in my neighborhood that has power. Thousands still don’t so while I can boil a pot of water to warm up the kitchen in the morning, so many can’t. Many of those are elderly and afraid to leave their cold homes because they think looters might come and take the last few things they have left.
And we can now shower, a thing that doesn’t seem as glorious until you don’t have any hot water. Being able to shower again was literally the highlight of this past week.
It has taken a week to go through everything that was lost in the basement. My husband went from depressed to angry every time he went down there and rummaged through memories that were gone. We saved as many photos as we could by drying them out before the colors ran into each other. I had an idea to dry any cherished papers that were semi-salvageable and then take a photo of them before they became rancid and crumpled. At least in that way, I can save a snapshot of the memory. I dried out three notebooks that I wrote in everyday when the kids were born about nothing really, just a daily paragraph about what we did that day and how they were growing. I’m going to retype them in a word document and then throw them out. The mix of sea water, sewage and who knows what is too damaging to keep. Some neighbors had fish in their homes washed in from the sea. Others, pounds of sand.
So it’s a full week later and if you turn on the TV, you’ll see newscasters and politicians say that things are getting better and back to normal, but they are not. Better, yes, a little everyday, but back-to-normal?
Nowhere even close.
While they say things are getting back-to-normal, if you want to get a true idea of the affected parts of NYC today (that isn’t filtered by the politicians or newscasters altered views/words), there are still people waiting on foot in immense lines with containers for gas, trains not running, buses overloaded, no power, street lights or heat.
People are still starving and freezing and have no place to live. I’m not blaming anyone specifically for it because I don’t even know how you can make room for the thousands that are homeless. NYC schools chancellor boasts that 90% of schools are opened today (many without heat) , but at least 57 of them aren’t because they are filled to the rim with newly homeless people. What happens when they must be moved so students can go back to school?
Even in the schools that were opened today, the conditions weren’t prime for kids to be at in many cases, reports the New York Times. Yesterday’s rushed clean-up before students came back was short of effective:
My son’s school is taking in children from Breezy Point schools that were obliterated. Starting today, we will have two additional schools in our building. Kudos to our principal for saying that any child in our area who does not have a school to go to is welcome at ours. He showed our kids by example of how we should respond … in any way we can.
It’s been seven days.
The first few days were all about rescuing lives and then realizing what had happened. We didn’t even understand the extent of our own damage from the flooding until about day two or three when the water finally went back to the ocean and we were able to go into the area without getting electrocuted. And our damage was small, even tiny compared to most others. It was on days 3 and 4 and 5 that many learned their homes had become uninhabitable.
But a full week later, we desperately need to have power back so we can rebuild, and heat and hot water on so we can live.
Oddly, there have been a number of deaths this past week that weren’t directly related to the storm. I don’t know whether the mental anguish was just too much or if it was purely coincidental but now we must prevent any more deaths, especially from the cold among our elderly and young. Of course, there are still new deaths that are directly related as well. Just yesterday a sanitation worker was electrocuted when he unknowingly walked on a live wire while working.
No one here can sleep.
In many ways, it feels as though the past 7 days were just one long ongoing event. Last night I had a dream that my husband and I were out cleaning around our house and then I watched helplessly as my block was swept into the sea with my kids in it. It was horrifying to even dream. When I think of parents who have actually lived through that, I cannot even bare it.
There will be mental and emotional repercussions for months on end. Hundreds if not thousands thought they might die that night, like this 28-year-old that became trapped and wrote a note in the dark asking whoever found him to let his father know he tried his best to survive. Luckily, he made it.
Although there is no comparison, I haven’t seen so many New Yorkers walking around in such a cloud of disbelief and anguish since 9/11. We banded together and rebuilt after that tragedy and we will do it again, but we are only now just beginning.
This morning there was an earthquake in New Jersey and on Wednesday a Nor’Easter is headed to the exact same spots that were ravaged by Sandy.
Can Mother Nature kindly take a few days off?
For more news on the effects of Hurricane Sandy , check out these updates: