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A hurricane’s reminder

November 5, 2012 - Carrie Olson
Guilty. Thankful. Cautious.

Those are three words that describe the emotions currently running through my system. With Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath still evident throughout New York City and New Jersey, I cannot shake those feelings.

Walking late at night in Jersey City (a no-no, as we are still under a curfew), you know things have not yet returned to normal. Garbage heaps clog the sidewalks — mattresses, furniture, books strewn about, reminders of the massive flooding. Stores and restaurants post signs that say they cannot open due to extremely low inventory and no delivery trucks. I overhear many distraught business owners talk of the loss of freezers, food, and more — their livelihoods in jeopardy. At the grocery store, I strike up a conversation with the clerk. She lives in another area of the city, which still does not have electricity. I glance down at my winter coat and wool scarf, thinking of the low temps.

Guilty. That is why I feel this way. We were lucky. Extremely lucky. The storm surge came two blocks from our building and was one of a handful of basement apartments that stayed dry. Our electricity came back on after a day and a half — it was inconvenient and we lost a lot of food from our refrigerator, but that was it. We have had heat, warm food, and general comfort, while many have not. Some still live in shelters, rely on others for sustenance, and worry about spending another day in an inhabitable space. Yesterday, we spent a couple hours worrying about how we would get to work. With the PATH Train still inoperable and our train station flooded, buses and ferries are our only option. We hemmed and hawed about standing in long lines, and that is when the guilt became insurmountable. At least we can get to work. At least this is our main concern at the moment. It does not compare to the worry and grief that fills the space around us. People dead from the storm. Homes completely destroyed. Shorelines ravaged.

Thankful. That is when I look up and realize what should be celebrated. We were blessed, and so many others were as well. Sometimes I can be pretty down on New Yorkers and people from this area, because it is so different from where I come from. But people really do care about each other. People will haul extension cords to the front of their homes to help power cell phones and laptops. At every corner of each block is a box full of personal care items. “Take one if you need one”, the sign exclaims. Compassionate volunteers help shovel garbage and debris from homes in Staten Island. Groups provide hot meals for those in need. That is pure beauty, what the fabric of our society should resemble. “Love one another, as I have loved you,” comes to mind.

Leaders of both political parties have been excellent in caring for the people of their regions. Enough can’t be said about the electric crews, emergency personnel, city, state, and federal workers that have worked around the clock to restore the infrastructure of the East. For me, it has restored faith in our government system. When we work together, it works.

And cautious. Unfortunately, we are looking at another storm this week. While it would be nice to just look the other way, we have learned that is not possible. This nor’easter isn’t supposed to be as strong as last week’s super storm; we are expecting strong winds, a storm surge, and cold, cold temps. It could definitely hamper relief efforts and put area citizens in jeopardy. I pray that the weather gives this region a break while it tries to recover.

Hurricane Sandy has dominated the headlines this past week and may continue to do so. It is important to remember that it is not just another sound bite or news item. There are real people suffering from this disaster, each with their own story. And that should be the focus at this time — not the politics or gripes on how certain things could have been handled differently. It is about the people, those suffering and those helping. Let us remember that during this season of giving.

 
 

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