I lived through Hurricane Irene (even if it was only a Tropical Storm when it made landfall last year near me here in New York City). In fact, about 10 days before that I experienced my first-ever earthquake too!
Last week I lived through my first true hurricane. The lady Sandy made landfall late Sunday and the eye of the storm made landfall on the Jersey shore Monday evening. First, let me say this: I am fine. My home is fine. I never lost power. I didn’t lose anything.
But I will also say this … it didn’t hit me until yesterday what this storm did. I’m 28, likely a third of the way through my life and I’ve seen tornadoes destroy my home state of Iowa. I’ve watched from the safety of my home the damages from earthquakes and hurricanes since I was a child; from Andrew to Katrina, I remember them all and was always saddened by the destruction of these storms. Hell, my sister lost nearly all her possessions in the historic 2008 flood in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I’ve seen it.
But this experience the past week, seeing friends have to run from their homes. Not have power for a week. A mother in Staten Island lost her two boys, two and four, as the flood waters rushed them and took them from her arms. They were found the next day, yards from each other. Lost. One of many lost to Sandy.
The path of destruction is vast. As I write this, my friend Hannah still has not been allowed back to her apartment in New Jersey. An entire neighborhood in Queens caught fire and due to the winds, they couldn’t stop it. Look at the photo … it doesn’t look like a war zone. It is one.
And on Staten Island we see the true pain. They took a head on hit. The moment the waters rose, they didn’t have hours, they had minutes. Lives have been lost. Destroyed. In my backyard.
I don’t know 1 percent of New Yorkers, but watching them on television beg for help … they are my neighbors. We ride the subway together. Go to Starbucks together. Pay really high taxes together. And just want a chance. And my heart aches for them. I was lucky. I was sparred.
Sandy came and went but she has impacted my life in ways I never thought I’d have to experience. I don’t ever want to see this again in my neighborhood. The pain and sadness and anger was not deserved by the citizens of New Jersey, of Staten Island, of the East and West Villages, of Red Hook and of Breezy Point.
But there was love there. Doctors provided free exams. Restaurants cooked what they had left for those without power; for free. Residents ran extension cords down their steps with power strips so people could charge their phones to let people know they were safe. Families. Cats and dogs. Please keep this region in your thoughts and prayers. Sure, we’ll be fine. We, like all cities, are resilient. But that doesn’t replace the homes, the photos, the memories and the lives taken much too soon.
Sandy has taught me one thing, a lesson I continue to learn more each and every year: love as often as you can.
Buzzfeed Photos of the Destruction