Luckily , Hurricane Sandy did not hit us too hard . It was terrifying hearing the howling of the wind ( for the first time , I understood the meaning of the phrase) but there was almost no rain here in Edison , New Jersey and the damage was minimal. We had one tree fall , luckily it fell away from the house , a section of the fence blew down and was shattered and the attic shutter was destroyed . Otherwise , nothing . We were without power for a day ( no internet , TV or phone) but we had gas and water throughout ,there was enough food and water and the car was gassed up . Yes , we were very , very lucky. Even our friends living half a mile away were without power and heat for five days .Yet even they were lucky compared to those who live on the Jersey shore or in Staten Island .Our hearts go out to those people .
Sandy also reminded us of a few things .The first is that we are all , at all times, balanced on the knife-edge between normalcy and chaos .The analogy that comes to mind is traffic tie-ups . There you are tooling along the highway when , suddenly , there is a traffic jam . Ten ,fifteen, twenty minutes pass as you inch along and then you see the cause of the delay : a traffic accident , or perhaps roadwork has shutdown a single lane and created a bottle neck. One little incident and yet it discommodes hundreds of motorists.
Sandy carried the disruption to uncharted levels.
Two weeks ago , everything here was fine and people were going about their business as usual. Then Sandy happened. Things we had always taken for granted were suddenly unavailable . No electricity , no TV , no phone, no internet . In some cases no water , no gas service either . In my case, I was without these necessities for only a day … but it was a long day . Others who were deprived of these services for four and five days felt their lack even more , youngsters in particular.Kids had never experienced this deprivation before and , for the first time , realized how much they had taken for granted . One parent told me that it was a good learning experience for her kids, hard though it was at the time .
As the utilities struggle to restore power , I begin to realize how connected everything is and how vulnerable we all are. As I write , there are still long lines at the gas stations because without electricity , the gas pumps are inoperable . Thousands of workers have been pressed into service but it will be days , maybe weeks before power is fully restored. In the meantime , it is “Cash only” at several stores because the computers at the check out counters can’t be powered up. And so it goes . Along the Jersey shore and in Staten Island , community life will be disrupted for a lot longer . Because of the lack of power , houses are uninhabitable and schools are closed .Basements are being pumped out , roofs that blew away are being fixed , trees are still blocking some roads and the misery is palpable . I quite understand the frustration of Staten Islanders who feel abandoned even though I know that utility workers and others are working feverishly to fix things .
The second thing Sandy brought home to me is that we humans underestimate the power of Mother Nature . Lulled by the feeling that nothing can go wrong , we take chances and build where we shouldn’t. In May , we were in North Carolina at the Outer Banks and I was shocked at the thousands , the tens of thousands, of substantial summer homes that have been built there . Knowing the ferocity of the storms that lash the Outer BanX , I had not expected them to be so built up . The Barrier Islands on the Jersey Shore are also precariously situated and they took a fearful hit from Sandy. I sympathize with the homeowners there but, a part of me wonders … should they have built there at all ?
Sandy’s third lesson was a reminder of the psychological fact that the further away the tragedy occurs, the less it jangles our emotions ; and conversely , the nearer the tragedy , the more we are affected by it . When Katrina hit New Orleans , I was moved by the suffering of its residents and , like many others , I donated to the relief efforts . Superstorm Sandy hit closer to home and I realize , in a way I never did before , the extent of the suffering . Even though we escaped Sandy’s full might , there is the feeling that ” There, but for the grace of God… “. The knowledge that it could have so easily have happened to me is sobering .
Tomorrow , in a cruel twist of Fate , a nor’easter is supposed to pummel the Jersey Shore already reeling from Sandy . I fervently hope that the predicted storm is just media hype and that it veers away from the area .