Hurricane Sandy damage

Hurricane Sandy reveals how lucky we are

by Michael on December 18, 2012

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy I headed to Long Island to check on damage to my mom’s house. She lives in a waterfront community that was in a mandatory evacuation zone but was out of town for the storm. Fortunately her neighborhood was not affected by the floods caused by the storm surge and only lost power for a few days.

Hurricane Sandy Long Beach

Idyllic Long Beach, Long Island as the storm approached. Famous as Billy Crystal’s hometown, the area suffered serious damage.

My aunt and uncle were not so lucky. An old tree across the street lifted up the entire sidewalk and made a beeline for their front door, knocking down power lines in the process. They shivered their way through two weeks without electricity. (Yet somehow managed to keep up with Dancing With The Stars.)

Two days before the storm hit we watched preparations at Long Beach. The boardwalk we were standing on was destroyed.

Down near the water I visited parents of high school friends, all of whom suffered substantial damage including the loss of their cars to the rising waters. It was an incongruous sort of high school reunion, chatting with people I hadn’t seen in 30 years outside of their waterlogged homes.

On TV we watched residents of Staten Island who had been hit the worst and lost almost everything. Their houses were filling with a foul-smelling mold that they were worried was harming their health. When asked if they would leave their homes they said no, because they were afraid of looters.

Their dilemma made me reflect on being so worried about stuff that they wouldn’t leave their unhealthy home for fear of losing things. After jettisoning just about everything we owned for this trip, I no longer value “stuff” so much anymore. Living out of a suitcase will do that to you.

Hurricane Sandy damage tree on sidewalk

This tree yanked up the sidewalk, which is sticking up in the air behind me, before tumbling toward my aunt and uncle’s house.

We’ve met people around the world who from the outside appeared to have nothing. Our neighbors in Indonesia lived in a ramshackle strip of small houses with no running water, yet they were happy. They had so much less to burden them. We met Bedouin in Jordan who live in yurt-like structures constructed of corrugated metal and other reclaimed salvage. Worrying about the loss of a widescreen TV would be an alien thought to them.

As Sandy bore down on the East Coast we hunkered down in my brother’s house. We didn’t really have any personal concerns. We have no house to get damaged, no cars to get flooded, no stuff to get ruined. As we rode out the storm, listening to the howling winds outside, I felt relieved that I really had nothing to worry about.

Long Beach boardwalk damage Hurricane Sandy

The Long Beach boardwalk after Hurricane Sandy. It’s being ripped out and hopefully a new one will be built by summer. 

We live a nomadic lifestyle now. If there’s a problem in one region, we’ll just pick up and move someplace else. There are no roots to reach up and entangle us, or to lose their tenuous grip on the ground and send us crashing to earth. Perhaps the Bedouin have had it right all along.

For Hurricane Sandy Relief go to the Robin Hood Fund.

Cat of Sunshine and Siestas December 18, 2012 at 7:35 am

It’s always amazing the kind of perspective you get after tragedies like this one. I lived and attend college in Iowa City, Iowa, and a tornado ripped thru the downtown area when I was a junior. I watched the funnel cloud – my biggest fear are tornadoes – destroy the buildings around ym sorority house, grateful it didn’t come near enough, damage my car, etc. It did destroy another sorority house, and watching the people of Iowa City come together in the face of adversity was incredible as we walked around the damag (I had just quit working for my university’s newspaper but found I was much more useful in helping than covering a story). Here’s hoping your family and friends recover quickly.

Michael December 18, 2012 at 8:31 am

It’s incredible what nature can do and how powerless we are in the face of it.

Vince December 25, 2012 at 11:31 am

New Yorkers are tough, we will survive!!

Michael January 1, 2013 at 5:25 pm

From 2 former New Yorkers we agree.

Kim December 25, 2012 at 4:39 pm

good sentiments. so much going on this year to make us appreciate even more what we have.

Michael January 1, 2013 at 5:25 pm

So true Kim,

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