Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Post-Sandy Reflections



My last blog post romanticized waiting for the storm to hit.  We had wine, chocolate, and enough junk food to last a few days, so what was the problem exactly?  The problem was that the power went out and didn’t come back on for nine days. 

And we were the lucky ones.

I learned a few things during that time and they are listed below:

1.     The radio comes in handy.  I, like most Americans, listen to the radio while driving.  Otherwise, I have my iPod in, controlling the music I want to listen to, or I’m watching television. To be completely dependent on the radio for a link to the outside world was something that I hadn’t experienced ever.  My son certainly hadn’t.  He and I stuck it out until Election Night when we decided that we couldn’t take the sub-freezing temperatures in the house anymore, sleeping my big bed with our animals, listening to either news radio or sports radio until we fell asleep.  In the dark, our breath coming out in freezing puffs, we lay there and listened to the stories of people far worse off than we were as well as updates on the subways, commuter trains, and businesses in and around New York City.

2.     Living in a house that relies completely on electricity is a bad thing.  I thought of this while I stood in front of the barbecue grill, making the dog’s special food (she’s on a diet for her skin allergies that requires me to cook for her) in a frying pan. I lamented the fact that every appliance in our house runs on electricity, even the stove.  Many of my friends have gas running into their house so never lost hot water or their stoves; many, like me rely completely on electrical power.  Others, in the worst-off category, have well water and hence, couldn’t flush their toilets for up to twelve days, depending on where they lived and how quickly the local power company restored their power.  The situation at my house, however, prompted me to go to Home Depot and snag the last generator that apparently existed: one that had been returned by a neighbor of mine (I didn’t know at the time that I bought it that it had been hers), the timing of which coincided with my desperate visit.  Now we have a gas-powered generator that will help out during storms but living in an old house without a garage means nowhere to store it.

3.     Don’t underestimate the luxury of showering in your own house.  We were lucky enough to have family members and friends who did have hot water; unfortunately, going to one of their homes meant driving, in one’s pajamas, and bringing clean clothes and toiletries along for the rid.  After the thought of doing so on day five seemed too daunting, I decided I would be brave and take a cold shower, something hubby and child #2 listened to with glee; heck, the sounds I made were better than anything they were listening to on the radio.  Once you have taken a cold shower and you stop shivering, you do feel refreshed.  However, your feet are numb for most of the day and your hair really isn’t very clean. But at least you aren’t driving in your slippers, looking for a place to land.  There’s that.

4.     You start to go a little crazy.  I was fine from day one until day seven.  On day eight, I snapped.  I’m not sure what it was about that point in time, but it was on that day that I was officially broken.  I had sworn I wasn’t going to leave the house before power was restored but with the temperatures dipping into the twenties for the second night in a row, I realized I couldn’t take it anymore. It was election night and I didn’t even see the returns for some of the early-voting states before my head hit the pillow at my in-laws and I fell asleep, in a warm house, for the first time in over a week.  (We got power back the next day at 11 a.m.)

5.     People are wonderful.  It’s sappy and clich├ęd but people really do come together in a crisis.  Granted, no one here in my little village lost their home and the damage was relegated to trees and felled power lines and telephone polls, but people really stepped up the generosity and opened their doors to their cold, unshowered neighbors.  And two organizations in our village organized pot-luck suppers for people who still didn’t have power and wanted hot, home-cooked food, events that remind you that we’re all in this together.  It was an especially good reminder during an election week when the vitriol dial was turned to “11.”  Although we were uncomfortable and didn’t have our creature comforts for far longer than was acceptable, for a few days, we had each other and that reminded me of why I live here.

My heart goes out to the people who lost homes, and even worse, family members. Not having television made it hard to picture the devastation but once power was returned and I started seeing what had actually happened, I was overwhelmed.  I spent a lot of my formative years at the Jersey Shore and realize that it will never be the same.  But I hope we can build back these beautiful areas of the East Coast and hopefully weather more storms that are sure to come our way.

Maggie Barbieri


6 comments:

  1. Maggie, I've been there before when much of KC lost power for several weeks with various ice storms. It is definitely no fun at the beginning, and it quickly turns miserable. We are lucky enough to have gas for the water heater and a gas furnace--but the blower fan for it is electric. So, hot water but no heat.

    I had hoped that, with the election over decisively with no hanging chads or concerns about who won the White House, we could focus out attention as a country on the damage Sandy had wreaked and the people still trying to live with that damage. But thousands are filing and signing secession petitions! I want to shake them and say, "We have a major disaster to deal with, and people in terrible need still as cold weather rolls in. Put that energy to work constructively for them." I always before thought we were a country that pulled together when faced with disaster.

    I was so glad to read on Facebook that you had your power back finally! I encourage everyone out there to set partisan politics aside (haven't we all had more than enough of that?) and focus on what they can do from wherever they are to help those still suffering the effects of Sandy.

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  2. Linda, right??? All we hear up here is about how Governor Christie lost the campaign for Romney by acting all bipartisan. Is that crazy or what? I was telling my 13-year-old last night about the secession filings and he was flabbergasted, particularly when he heard that our own home state was one of the filers. I don't know how people are dealing with a third week without power, and heat, as a result. Maggie

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  3. I've tried a couple of times to comment and it wouldn't work. Let's hope third times the charm. Glad you have electricity again. I don't want to hear anything more about the election--from either side. Both are guilty of lies and acting like children. I don't like the fact that my vote in California (Alaska, Hawaii have the same problem) counts not at all.

    We have been without electricity several times--hours not days--and we keep lots of water on hand for drinking and bigger containers to use for washing up, flush toilets. Started doing this when we had our care home. Always needed to be prepared with 6 extra folks in the house. Always had enough food on had for 5 plus days too.

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  4. Just wanted to say that I'm glad that the worst part of this is over for you and your family, Mags.

    Also, I'll make a pitch to remind everyone who reads this that you can still, even from far away, give great aid and comfort to man and beast on the east coast right now by donating to large organizations (like The Red Cross, AmeriCares, the Salvation Army, and the ASPCA or the Humane Society, etc.) and small/local organizations providing amazing relief efforts. More local agencies--like various places of worship or schools and social clubs--are providing on-the-spot aid in very hard hit places like Rockaway and Breezy Point and others. Some news programs are referencing these smaller groups, but you can also find them by making phone calls to friends and family out that way.

    So, even if you can't show up in person, you can help and can even keep helping as the months to rebuild and re-establish will go on.

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  5. Vicky, thanks for the reminder. I think the Red Cross is a great organization; they are boots on the ground as soon as a disaster hits. Also, I watched a video that showed the devastation at the Jersey Shore and it highlighted the lost animals, something that breaks my heart. So, yes, ASPCA and Humane Society are also good organizations to support. Thanks. Maggie

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  6. Wow. I get all of these. We certainly lived a parallel existence for those days. So glad the lights are back on. Although, I could have done without the reality check on the TV.

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