Five ways things changed overnight

12 Nov

After underestimating the impact of Hurricane Sandy, things quickly changed.  Here’s how it felt from my perspective.

#1: Although the city and its people came together in spirit and support, we were divided.  Into three categories: flooded and seemingly destroyed; dry but in the dark; completely unaffected.  In the categories that were affected, the scale ranged from affected for several days to total destruction.  When I talked to my mother who was watching reports from Buffalo she told me were being described as the “haves” and “have nots” – but not of wealth or monetary circumstances.  Instead our area was being described in terms of the most basic necessities – electricity, running water, shelter.

#2: Living without electricity is difficult but being without running water is almost impossible.  Convinced the power would be back on Tuesday morning, we made a bit of a party out of it Monday night.  We quickly filled a cooler with the still frozen ice, cold beer, and white wine; we played card games, talked and shared stories, and eventually made out by candlelight.  It wasn’t until we woke up Tuesday morning to a burnt out emergency generator – meaning no running water, an inability to even flush the toilet, and dark emergency stairwells – that I realized how serious the situation could become.  Thinking about our every move became absolutely exhausting.  Out of options at my apartment, we made our way to Queens as soon as the bridges reopened Wednesday morning.  I was officially displaced from my home for the first time in my life.

#3: In getting to a place with electricity, and somewhere we could watch TV, I began to understand the extent of the damage Sandy had caused.  Other than those completely unaffected – of which I only knew three – I was in the group that should have considered ourselves extremely lucky.  The electricity in my apartment building was only out for six days.  Heat, hot water, and elevators eventually followed in the next few days (and hey, climbing 48 flights round trip is great exercise!)  Parts of Long Island and New York would be without power for weeks.  I had friends downtown who would be out of their apartment for one to three months.  I had a colleague in Hoboken who was stuck in her apartment because filthy, contaminated water flooded the first floor of her building.  Another was emergency evacuated by the coast guard due to unsafe and unhealthy conditions.  A third lost everything in her first floor apartment in Brooklyn, including the apartment.  People in Staten Island lost homes.  New Jersey lost its entire shore.

#4: By Friday my job felt like the most important thing in my life.  Not because it actually is but because for the first time all week I had something to distract me and focus all my nervous energy on.  By 7 am I was at my friend’s dining room table, logged in, headphones on, banging away on my laptop.  I politely declined breakfast and lunch, perfectly content with coffee and the mental distraction.  When we snuck away for a movie at 4 pm it wasn’t just to stay busy or get out of the house.  And I genuinely laughed when we sat down before the movie and my friend asked, “So how was your day at work?”  He had been in the living room all day, maybe 10 feet away.  Even he knew I needed that day “at work.”

#5.  My mom always says something good comes out of something bad; and for the first time in a very long time I slowed down and appreciated the small things in my every day.  Homemade pancakes for breakfast on a Thursday; a hot shower every morning; “puppies!” in a storefront window; shots of café patron in a friend’s living room on a weeknight; an entire morning on the couch in pajamas; exclusive access to a borrowed, soft, oversized hoodie; guided tour of a new neighborhood; a movie in the middle of the day; take out from a new joint; kissing someone goodnight and good morning more days in a row than you’re used to; space when you need it and a shoulder when you don’t.

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One Response to “Five ways things changed overnight”

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  1. 12 memories from 2012 « Unwedded Bliss - January 18, 2013

    […] Hurricane Sandy (and the lessons learned) […]

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