It’s hard to believe that a year ago today, Hurricane Sandy swept through the Northeast corridor, flooding New York City and leaving many of us powerless for days. It was a surreal experience to hear in late October that yet another Hurricane was gathering strength and heading towards our city. Just the year before, we were hit by Irene, which caused minimal damage, but had thrown me into a panic. The night Irene landed, labor pains started, and I was forced to dial around town for a hospital that was still admitting patients. My hospital had closed earlier that day and hell or high water, no pun intended, this baby was coming.
Hectic birth stories aside, many of us New Yorkers anticipated Sandy with a healthy dose of cynicism because Irene had quickly turned from a roaring lion into a virtual kitty cat. “This is it?” I remember Anderson Cooper asking as he walked around downtown New York during the heart of the storm, the worst of the storm surge lapping gently over the barrier.
And so, like many NYC families, as we heard about Sandy’s approach, we did little to stock our apartment with adequate food and water supplies, flashlights, and size D batteries. The boy had cried wolf, and we wouldn’t be fooled again.
Lesson learned. Storms are unpredictable, and when they hit, they hit hard. I will never again be unprepared for an event like this. That is, if it ever happens.
Early before Sandy’s arrival, we tried to enjoy our last few moments outside, knowing that we’d likely be stuck indoors for a day, maybe two.
Once we were officially quarantined for the evening, we did what we do best: cracked open a bottle of wine and hung out with the kids as they played in the hallways.
And of course we watched CNN.
I have a love/hate relationship with CNN. It’s the only channel worth watching in the face of impending doom. Who doesn’t love to watch the reporters as they brave Mother Nature, yardsticks in hand, ready to measure accumulated pools of rain, wave height, and beach recession. Feet firmly planted, winds lashing their faces, soaked from head to toe, they warn us to “STAY INSIDE”. It’s courageous and unnecessary all at the same time. Do we really need to watch our reporters get blown away by gale force winds? I think the answer is yes, because CNN specializes in news as entertainment, and on nights like this, the entertainment is thrilling.
We even had a little bit of fun surfing the winds that came through our window.
And then, shortly before 9PM, the lights went out.
All joking fell to the wayside. This wasn’t something on TV anymore. Things aren’t quite so entertaining when they’re happening in your own home. It was eerily silent except for the winds and rains whipping through the corridor behind our apartment complex. And so we went to bed, hopeful that the worst of the storm would quickly pass, that flooding would be minimal, and that all would return to normal in relatively short order.
It wouldn’t be so easy. We woke up the next day to no power, and a very sick kid. Lauren, feeling feverish, showed me her right hand, which was now covered with a cluster of emerging sores. Hand foot and mouth disease was my best guess, but I had no way of knowing for sure.
And so it went, for the next week, figuring out how to nourish and keep our three young kids healthy without proper access to the usual amenities and no easy way to get in and out of our elevator building. With our pediatrician’s office closed due to the storm, and subways at a standstill, it was a challenge to find a doctor who could properly help treat Lauren’s infection. But you do what you can, there are people who struggle with these types of challenges every day, and it really does give you perspective.
And the kids were resilient. I was so proud of them. Particularly Lauren, who despite her illness, kept a smile on her face throughout.
We even went trick or treating. Most people had moved out of their apartments to stay with friends uptown, or outside the city. And only a handful of stores on our block were open. Options to find candy were pretty limited. But a few store owners remembered that it was, in fact, Halloween, and by flashlight, found a few pieces of candy for the child-sized Ariel and Buzz Lightyear who showed up on their doorsteps.
Last year’s Halloween reminded me that kids don’t need much to be happy.
After what seemed like weeks, but was only 5 days, the lights came back on.
Living through Sandy was one of the most challenging experiences I’ve faced as a parent. It was a humbling experience to be without access to gas, power, heat, food and medical services, mass transit, and communication with the outside world. But we did what we had to do.
Others did more, they showed their stripes. I was so moved by the stories of New Yorkers helping one another – the volunteers who traveled selflessly to Queens and Staten Island to help those hit hardest by the storm. The apartment residents who ferried food and medical supplies up and down countless flights of stairs for stranded neighbors. The local businesses who donated mountains of supplies, despite the impact the storm had no doubt made on their own operations.
My heart goes out to the many people who lost loved ones during the storm, and to those who were displaced from their homes, in some cases permanently. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind, and to forget how thankful we should be for modern conveniences, our health, and our happiness.
This post is my way of giving a heartfelt thank you to the mundane, to the everyday, to the uneventful. These are the good times. The times we should appreciate, the times that shouldn’t pass us by unnoticed.
Happy Halloween everyone. I hope it’s a good one.
PS, here’s a video recap of our week last year: