Sunday, November 4, 2012

What Sandy Left Behind

After the Hurricane
Surreal. I am not sure if there is a better word to describe it.

A week ago we were preparing for a hurricane. It was a halfhearted effort as we danced back and forth across the line between preparedness and hype. For as long as I have lived here severe weather events could be described by words like: inconvenient, uncomfortable, or an adventure (like sleeping in the back yard as a kid was an adventure). The danger aspect of storms was isolated and short lived (unless someone acted stupid – and there are always a few who do). It wasn’t that New Yorkers didn’t think it could happen here, as my Companion pointed out; it is just that it never had…

Then, under the light of the full moon, in came Sandy with the tide…

Even after the worst storms things are back to a relative normal here in a few days… Call it denial, willful ignorance, arrogance: call it whatever you want but most people here really expected Sandy to be the same - Even after it hit… Even after the lights went out… Even when they woke the next day and looked around… Even after they saw the pictures on TV…  But here it is almost a week later and things aren’t back to normal… Normal will sooner be redefined…

We – my family and I - are blessed to be in a place that has been relatively unaffected. It has been inconvenient, uncomfortable, a bit of an adventure but nothing perilous. But the other three sides of our block and a lot of other patches in our neighborhood are still without power. A mile south of us, flooded basements are being gutted in hopes of minimizing mold and contamination. Beyond that is the Queens war zone sans enemy; Broad Channel, Rockaway, Far Rockaway, Breezy Point… Top it off those areas can only be reached, coming or going, by car. Even if you have one, and less here do than don’t, gas is getting harder to come by… 

New Yorkers do not take kindly to being called victims. Let me let you in on a secret – no-one does! The title of “Victim” implies powerless, helpless, weak. Even when voiced by the best intentioned, it creates a sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’. “Victim” is an impediment. It gives the power to the helper. In the face of a task so daunting, we need to feel empowered. Call your neighbors neighbors. Call your friends friends. Heck – you can call a stranger a stranger who you can see needs a hand. Help is easier to give than to ask for. The word “Victim” can make it harder…

Right now, as I write this, there are a lot of people who need a hand. Many have never had to ask for help beyond their immediate family before. Few have ever faced a situation like they are facing now. Some are behaving poorly in the face of adversity. Most are behaving honorably. Even those like my family, who were effected minimally by the storm itself, are facing residual and unexpected challenges. We are all moving forward towards the new normal.

No one is quite sure what it is going to feel like - but we are sure that life hasn’t gotten back to it yet. Normal doesn’t feel so surreal.
Six Ways to Respond

Send a care package or an envelope with $20 in it to a random address at the edge of an impacted zone. Ask the addressee to use or deliver to a family in need. Trust that stranger to do what is right.

Support a small business or Etsy vendor in an effected area by ordering holiday gifts from them.

Foster a pet for a displaced family.

When people are tired, upset, lost, angry, cold, confused, etc, acknowledge that no-one is at their best when they feel that way and don’t take it personally.

When you are tired, upset, lost, angry, cold, confused, etc try not to take it out on others.

Send thank-you letters to first responders.



  1. Thank you for sharing this post on such an important topic. We all need reminding! And I like your we-are-not-victims theme!

    1. Thank you Lisa! There is such a push to get back to 'normal' here but some are so much further than others from being able to...

  2. What a wonderful post full of great ideas and reminders. I know my sister in CT didn't have power for about a week. It was a horrible storm. For me the biggest impact was not having my husband around since he works for the power company. We lost power but not for too long. Thank you so much for sharing at Sharing Saturday!

    1. Glad that you and your sister both fared okay. It is amazing to think but there are still people without heat or power a month later. Recovery is a long road!