I was wrong when I scoffed at the storm, posting on a friend's Facebook page, "people. It's going to RAIN."
I was wrong when I didn't bother to stock up on more than a few days' worth of boxed milk.
|photo by flickr user dvidshub, |
used under creative commons license
Because I didn't take Sandy seriously.
Though I hadn't spent much time online, I saw enough in the newspapers and in occasional log in to know that we were lucky. My brother was evacuated from Hoboken, where his building was flooded with several feet of water. Here, at my house, we were inconvenienced, but not devastated. We sustained only minor property damage (if you could even call it that). Though we lost power for a week, we had an inverter, powered by my husband's Prius when he was home from work, that gave us intermittent heat and chilled milk in the refrigerator (because there wasn't much else in there by the second day). I made a conscious decision not to use my computer or my phone if I could avoid doing so, because doing so would mean sucking up gas, which was--and still is--in very short supply here, and desperately needed by so many other people. Even in my town, downed trees cut houses in half, squashed cars. Transformer explosions caused fires.
It had been a week since we'd seen lights on my block. Generators droned on in the background, day and night. Our town postponed Halloween until tonight, and though it was going to be pitch black out, I decided to take the kids out anyway for a little while, just to feel normal. My son walked proudly down the street in his home-made sea captain costume, made out of a cardboard box, to which we affixed a pinwheel for a propellor, hand-made fishing pole, and a hand-sewn (by him) felt flag. My daughter barrelled down the sidewalk in purple tuille, in an oversized freecycle ballet costume we refer to around here as the "poofy dress." And some of my power-less neighbors really came through: one of them built a fire pit in his front yard; another lit candles across the porch; another came over with giant Hershey bars for the kids and Buttershots-spiked cider for the adults. It was a quiet Halloween, but I was impressed by the tenacity of my neighborhood.
Of course, it wasn't all hand-holding and kum-ba-ya here this week.
I was cut off when I was on the road driving my mom to physical therapy by two people who needed to get in line for the Dunkin' Donuts drive through, presumably because they didn't have working coffee makers at home.
I witnessed two neighbors come close to fisticuffs over the noise of the generator at night, which was powering a house blazing with light and TV.
I saw gas lines three hours long (and actually sat in one for an hour and a half), with people waiting for cans of gas. One of them complained in our local paper that he had to fill his generator twice a day. I couldn't help but wonder: for what?
But I also saw Jersey drivers being courteous at traffic lights that no longer functioned. And I had friends all over the state (and in the next state over) offering me a warm place to go, or a hot meal, or a hot shower, or a washing machine and dryer. And when the power came back on tonight almost a week to the hour that the lights went out, I determined to pass that same invitation on to anyone who needs it.
Disasters like Sandy make you think about what's really important. Filling up cars with gas? Yes, if you need to get to work or to the doctor or to the grocery store for essentials. Doing the laundry? Not so much, provided you have a little clean underwear to change into every once in a while. Showers? Maybe, if you're going to work. TV? Dunkin' Donuts coffee? Low priority. Internet? Maybe for basic communication. But certainly not for the kinds of things so many people think they need it for. Cell phones? Again, yes, for communication about where to find food or gas ... but maybe not so much for texting about what's on TV. Shelter? Yes. Warmth? Yes, with the caveat that it's possible to wear enough clothes to stay warm as long as you have shelter. Food? Yes. Basic food. Not beautiful food. Healthy, nutritious, life-sustaining food. That maybe even came out of a can. Like peanut butter.
Still, in my area, thousands of people remain without power, and a nor'easter is scheduled to hit on Wednesday, with snow accumulating up to a few inches. Thousands are displaced, some without things like diapers for their babies or food or warm winter clothing. People will be cold, even if they are lucky enough to have a home. There's a collection center at my local library, just down the road. It's the sort of thing you never expect to see in your back yard. If you're local, and in a position to do so, I encourage you to find a donation center.
If you can't donate locally, I urge you to consider donating to OccupySandy and OccupySandyNJ, because they are on the ground right now helping people get access to food and basic supplies, at least at the Jersey Shore. (You can get to their Amazon wish list by clicking on the Wedding Registry. It's weird, but it works.)
I would also like to host an online bake sale/auction to aid in the long-term recovery efforts for Sandy victims, because the rebuilding process is not going to happen overnight, and because a case of diapers isn't going to make the disaster disappear. If you're a blogger and baker, please leave your contact info in the comment section. If you know of a food blogger and baker, please pass them alone. I don't know much about online auctions, but I think we can do this simply and still amass some amazing looking treats, and send them around the country for a good cause.
Powering down for now. Because I've used my share.