With the exception of the article written last Monday about my flight into NJ as the hurricane was also coming in, the rest of last week’s posts were pre-written before Hurricane Sandy landed and changed NJ forever. Today, I can finally post again – it will be the first of several posts about this long week and the longer times ahead.
Located here in northwestern NJ – we spent six days in cold and darkness. Now, we officially have power back! That means we now have heat (beyond the five feet the fireplace reaches out to), hot water to take showers, and lights at night! We now have internet and television to garner a fuller understanding of the devastation that surrounds us. We can have a cup of hot coffee again – and cook meals (if there were food left to buy on the grocery store shelves), we can wash laundry. But we also now have a different insight into many things – both current and past.
Others around us are still without heat and power.
The 3-hour-long gas lines are reminiscent of the 70’s when – for those who remember driving then – we experienced gas rationing. Many tempers are edgy on gas lines. Frustrated drivers are often running out of gas while sitting on lines, and thus far we have spent a cumulative near 7 hours just for a tank of gas and a can of gas to run the chain saw. It is amazing, in retrospect, to know we thought that time was well spent: Without gas, we go nowhere – walking out where here is not an option – there are no sidewalks and nothing within miles. Driving a car is a luxury we have come to take for granted as common necessity. It actually is not. Heat, hot water, food, clean drinking water, and a roof over your head . . . these are the necessities.
We witnessed here, as well, the power of people coming together. Many neighbors are reaching out and helping others. We had 7 trees come down in our yard alone – several on the pool and filter. A daunting job to try to clean up this “Act of Nature” – we had two 16-year-old boys walk over from across the street to help us cut tree limbs, drag branches, and clean up. Thank you boys—not just for the so-much-appreciated help — but also for reminding me that teens of today have a heart and a moral soul, and are just as kind and helpful as teens of past generations.
Here, the fire department is totally volunteer, and among the first responders throughout the cold days, and dark and colder nights, are several 17 year old boys I know well – young, responsible and ready to run at the first wail of a siren. This long week was even longer, colder and darker for them, as they volunteered to help others first – sometimes without sleep, without food. With one of them being my son – I can say first hand that with every call they run out to, my heart runs, too. Thank you to them and the entire fire fighter and first responder teams out there.
We were hard-hit here, but we know all too well that we were also very lucky. I grew up going to the Jersey Shore – riding the Seaside roller coasters and walking the board walk. We spend weeks in the summer at a family-owned beach house that is most likely now filled with sand and water damage. Some we know lost their lives. This is the saddest of it all. We cannot just return to work as though this disaster did not happen. It did, and Healing will take time. But we will move forward – and that will be time well spent.