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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.
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.
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.
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.
To contribute to relief efforts go to the Robin Hood Fund.