It’s almost six months since Hurricane Sandy pounded us on October 29, 2012, and so many are still suffering its wrath. I’m one of the lucky ones. No one in my family was hurt, and our home, cars and trees remain standing. Looking back on living through Sandy, it now registers as a massive inconvenience, but not one without a real lesson.
Our lights went off at 8:38pm on Monday night, 10/29, and didn’t come back on until 9:03pm the following Tuesday, Election Day, 11/6. How do I know the exact times our light was lost and restored? I’m a fan of documenting my life in general; once it became clear what a catastrophe Sandy was, I took copious notes of everything I did and felt. I wanted to get my small Sandy story down. My experience wasn’t that unique. Like thousands of others, we lost power, which meant we also lost heat and hot water. We waited in line for 5.5 hours to get gas. We barbecued macaroni and cheese on the grill and then, ultimately, threw away everything in our refrigerator and freezer. Our kids used the time off from school to play outside, play Monopoly and eat dinner by candlelight, and maybe watch a movie on a laptop if we were able to get it charged. We were incredibly grateful that the only challenge we faced was this temporary loss; we still had our homes, and we knew that once the visiting utility trucks reached our street (thank you, Kentucky!), our normal lives would resume. Before long, we felt like colonial women, spending our waking hours figuring out how to provide meals and get ourselves clean. Work went out the window. Writing went out the window. Homework. Sports. Laundry.
Life became simple, singular in purpose, and I kind of liked it. I’ve always considered myself something of a Depression-Era man living in the wrong decade, and my nine days of Sandy induced deprivation gave me a taste of my true soul. I was freezing. I was dirty. I fantasized about my microwave, the recorded TV shows I hadn’t yet watched, the possibility of once again flicking a switch and seeing light perforate the darkness. I also relished the chance to stand back and appreciate the things we so often say we do, but aren’t really forced to. I loved the fact that we all pulled together. G and I planned what we would eat, which of us would get ice for the perishables in the cooler and wait in line for gas. The kids did an amazing job of not complaining and entertaining themselves – if anyone would be expected to freak over the disappearance of all things electronic and instantaneous, it’s ‘kids today.’ It wasn’t just our kids. It was perfect strangers too. Several times, we camped out in our Target lobby with computers and phones to charge, seeking warmth and light. What we found was patience, generosity and kindness. No one snapped at each other or hoarded outlets, floor space or chairs. The Target store made its refugees feel welcome and everyone made the most of their hospitality.
It all ended, as I mentioned, on Election night. President Obama had thankfully been reinstated. The only ones home at 9:03 were my older son Blue and me. A self-professed nonreader, he was heading up to his room with a book and a lamp that we had recently activated thanks to the gift of a generator from our good friends. I was in the kitchen, gathering up a motley crue of candles, some tall, some stout, and some with a tunnel burned through the middle, to clean up after dinner. I’ll never forget where I was standing when it happened – right near the blessed microwave. I looked at Blue as he proceeded up the stairs. All of a sudden, light. Bursts of it. The recessed lighting in the kitchen, the chandelier by the stairs we usually complain is too bright, the overheads in the den. It was almost too much for my eyes. Blue and I looked at each other and broke out in all-out, giddy, hysterical laughter. Disbelief? Relief? Joy? It felt like a miracle, no less staggering than the one my ancestors witnessed in a great temple thousands of years ago.
It was a miracle. Yet, the return of the beat-the-clock pace of life as we knew and thrived on it, with all its conveniences, carried a bit of sadness for me. As soon as it was over, I longed to hunker down again, to keep our focus on each other, on breakfast, lunch and dinner and how many days I could get out of my favorite jeans before moving on to my next favorite pair.
I would never wish for another Sandy. That’s not to say, though, that I might not encourage whoever winds up reigning supreme on our next Election Day to deem October 29th get back to basics day, a day without power the way we’ve come to overuse it, when we can take a moment, or 24 hours, to live, with fervent gratitude and collaboration, among only that and those whom we really need.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog. This post is part of a series we’re hosting: Six Months from Sandy. If you have a story to tell, we’d love to share it. Please contact us.