Our lights are on, and with them the oil burner. And I have a full tank of gas.
I mean no disrespect to the people who have lost and suffered so much in this storm when I say, for us there was something nice about having no electricity for a few days. About cutting wood for the stove because our warmth depended on it. About staying close by because we needed to be mindful about limited gasoline. About having 3 generations under one roof for a while. About cooking on the wood stove. About sitting around the table reading together by candlelight each night.
We will leave the lights on. We won’t go back to candles. But we’ll carry with us a little of the extra light they shed, a little of the warmth they brought us. A little of the grace that a bit of inconvenience can bring.
We were very lucky; we had no damage and no injury at our house. Even my boat was spared. At my mother’s, one tree cracked in half but the part that fell did not hit anything. One gutter down. Ruined food in freezer. That’s about it. Not far away, many are hurting terribly and have lost much. We appreciate our luck.
One of my friends was renting a house on a tidal creek; it’s destroyed. Another friend had a tree come through his living room while he was watching the news. He has two co-workers whose homes are uninhabitable. One of my relatives says his neighbors 1 block away actually drowned in their house. One of my friends was walking from her home through waist-deep water with her dogs at her side, “swimming for their life.” She was having doubts about whether they’d make it to safety, when two guys wearing survival suits showed up and rescued them.
For more than a week, we still hadn’t heard from all our relatives in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties. It was like a post-apocalyptic novel where short distances turn into total blackout zones, with people who are normally in close contact suddenly unreachable and unknowable as if it was centuries ago. Finally we did hear from them—all are OK.
But that was the most unsettling part of the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy: the realization that our civil lives depend so utterly on systems that can fail. What if, instead of gasoline being unable to reach us because of damage to ship terminals, something had happened that disrupted food shipments? What if, instead of gas stations running dry, supermarkets ran out of food? And in fact, with the electricity off, vegetables, milk, and meat quickly became unavailable in many places.
And of course, people weren’t the only ones affected. A few days after the storm, we were on our way home one night when we saw a young raccoon in the street looking dazed and thin. So many very big old trees are down, many such creatures must have been displaced. We tried to give it some food but it was a little too worried about us, so we left the food in hopes the little ‘coon would sniff its way back to a meal. One can do so little good sometimes, but sometimes one can do a little good.
This superstorm was a maker of refugees. But for us, personally, the news is: We’re safe: I, Patricia, Alexandra, my mother, our relatives—our people, pups, parrots, chickens, etc.—all OK.