SPECIAL FROM BetterAfter50
After Hurricane Sandy's bluster died down, I felt a strong need to see my home in suburban New York. The problem was that I couldn't get there for four days because of work in Boston. My friends had checked on the house so I knew it was fine, but there was still no power. They warned me not to come -- no one had power except for one friend who was hosting sleepovers and dinners. I checked the Facebook pictures, texted all week long and was warned that it was cold, dark and trying without power, but my husband Bill and I ignored the warnings and jumped in the car and headed to Larchmont. It seemed incredible that Bill and I would leave the comfort of our heated condo in Boston and head to no Internet, light or warmth, but we did.
As we started our journey, we felt like we were heading to a war zone and the enemy was Sandy. (Too sweet a name for a monster storm that had brought our community to a full stop.)
Worrying from afar wasn't working for me. The wrath of Sandy, frightening as it was, didn't lessen my desire to be there. I wanted to be with my "people" from my hometown and experience Sandy with them -- to battle the beast together. I felt too far away in Boston as the hurricane blew through, luckily missing us. (And of course, I was happy for the people of Boston.) But relying on TV, email and texts to check on my friends and neighbors didn't quite cut it.
While our worried kids texted us from New Hampshire, California and New York City, we were fine, curled up on our couch in Boston listening to the wind howl. I was worried about those who were not fine and were going through the scariest of nights with tides that flooded their homes and winds that landed trees on their roofs. I was worried about my sister -- who lives on a peninsula in Connecticut -- whose home became an oasis for her lower-lying neighbors and I wanted to be tucked in with her too, rather than worrying from afar.
So once Sandy was done with her screeching and our work was done in Boston, we headed straight to New York.
We gassed up the tank and headed south and refueled in Connecticut, knowing the gas lines would be killer in New York (and they were). Bill and I just wanted to pitch in, and were thrilled to be asked to bring gas for one friend, candles for our neighbor and appetizers for the group.
We were struck by the darkness as we pulled into Larchmont. We navigated fallen trees and made our way around detours as we headed straight to the "Hurricane Commune" where our buddies were shacked up in the one house that had power. They were on Day four of sleepovers and group meals. When we arrived, we were greeted by huge hugs, Sandy war stories and a group cooking scene that looked like they'd been living together seamlessly for years. It felt so good to have arrived to join our friends.
That first night, Bill and I slept in our dark, cold house, grateful to be there and safe with a roof over our heads. We were no longer on the periphery and felt relieved to be home.
The next morning, I met up with my two running buddies to tour the devastation.
First we checked out a tree that had fallen across my friend's lawn. The roots of this enormous oak made it look like an angry monster from a children's book that was crying as its powers melted away. My eyes welled up while the 100-year-old oak lay with its guts splayed across the lawn. Miraculously, it had left my friend's house unscathed.
Next, we headed to our beloved Manor Park on Long Island Sound. The sun was stunningly bright and the waters calm, but we were shaken by what we saw.
Fences along the water's edge ripped clear across the park and sea walls crumbled like dust. 200-pound slabs of granite that were once our resting benches at the harbor's edge were lifted clear off their bases. The three of us examined the benches like scuba divers with snorkels, garbling our words as we gasped and nodded to one another. We pointed and observed. This scene of raw beauty and brutal destruction was breathtaking. The sand had been smoothed by the retreating tide and looked like a raked Caribbean beach, safe and inviting. Next to it was a grouping of five trees, toppled on their sides -- a woven horizontal forest laid to its final rest. Beauty and horror were intermeshed.
I subscribe to the theory that nature self-corrects. Forests burn to make way for new life, but this devastation was hard to digest. The larger message is ominous. We all hear the warnings and cannot ignore them. The waters are rising and the water surges are powerful. Global warming is ferocious and our power is minuscule, and storms like this will come again -- way before the next hundred years, maybe even next year.
Sandy has tested the power of community and perseverance. She has shown how we can turn devastation into a celebration of human spirit. She gave us a reason to come together for each other and focus on life beyond ourselves.
Kindness, caring and gratitude were plentiful. Despite those shivering in their mole holes like Toady in The Wind and the Willows, we were greeted by the same refrain, "We cannot complain about our cold houses and the difficulty of early, dark nights. We are not suffering like our neighbors in New Jersey, we are not suffering like the residents of Staten Island. We have our homes."
This morning I joined my running club (http://www.newrorunners.org/) who turned the canceled New York Marathon into a charity event. Over 50 runners showed up, 20 of them having trained hard for the marathon. All were relieved that the marathon had been canceled. They would have felt guilty and wrong to be running when so many are in need. We all made donations and voted to earmark them for the Red Cross .
We pray that the people affected by Sandy's wrath find their way back to safety as soon as possible. In the end, despite the devastation, there's no place like home.