This is my last Sandy post, I swear. For the past several days, many people have suggested I write another post about the aftermath.
It was a unique experience for me because I’ve worked in news all my adult life and have covered dozens of major storms. I was familiar with weather devastation– especially when covering Katrina, when I had to handle food, shelter, transportation, and gas for our crews while doing live shots every half hour for weeks. While everyone else gets back to normal, storm victims are left in often rough condition and cut off from the world.
This time, I was cut off. We had no power for a week, no TV or internet for 10 days, and with roads and trains blocked and gas lines long, we didn’t venture out of our little town. My lame Blackberry allowed me to view email but connection to the web was sketchy at best and wasted too much precious juice. I was moved by snippets of stories on Twitter– a woman in Staten island who lost her kids when her car flooded, basements on the Jersey Shore filled with sand, and Rockaway rescue workers who helped neighbors even when their own homes were destroyed.
But I saw no photos, viewed no “20/20” news wraps. I heard Bruce led a star-studded concert to help Sandy victims. Normally that would have been appointment TV for me, but I never saw a clip.
I’m not asking for sympathy. Please save that for the thousands of people still without power despite freezing and snowy weather conditions in the last week. Or offer it to those who have lost their homes and personal possessions and have to choose between the daunting task of rebuilding or finding a new place to live while they piece their lives back together.
There are many post-Sandy inconveniences that still aren’t resolved. Commuting has become the focus of many North Jerseyites who were spoiled by direct train service to Manhattan. For the last 2 weeks, many (including Wilson) worked from home or (like me) left at 530am to avoid traffic driving into the city. Bus routes were unreliable and often required long waits. I don’t know anyone whose commute was less than 2 hours each way. I got stuck in traffic for two accidents at the Lincoln Tunnel Monday that made me almost 4 hours late for work! There are email chains, Twitter feeds, and endless conversations with both friends and strangers touting transportation trauma and tricks.
I was at a party this weekend where many men were sporting beards because they didn’t bother shaving for two weeks in the dark cold. Women complained about the “Sandy 7” which everyone seemed to gain after days of indulgence. Who can stay on a diet when ice cream is melting in your freezer? Many couldn’t resist munching snacks all day when there was little else to do. The wine every night didn’t help either.
But as I said in my last posts, we also had some fun nights with family and friends. Many spontaneous candle lit evenings would never have happened in the real world but post-storm conditions gave everyone the luxury of unstructured time.
In many ways, the last two weeks has felt like a dream or a movie. It was all so unbelievable and unfamiliar, and you had to just get through it. It’s hard to comprehend that in the midst of all this, we elected a new president. We didn’t have cable on election night and I had to get up at 5a the next day so I barely watched the returns.
My experience as a storm victim has taught me and my family several things. There’s been a lot of talk at our dinner table about gratitude. I still marvel every time I turn my closet light on or use the microwave like I’m some kind of transplanted time traveler. I’m grateful every morning when I brush my teeth and every surface in my bathroom isn’t icy.
Surviving Sandy made us all older and wiser (and colder and wider!) and gave us an appreciation for our families and our community. It’s an experience that will stay with us and hopefully taught my kids that although it was an uncertain and uncomfortable situation, we were the lucky ones.