What a bitch.
I live in New Jersey, one of the most greatly affected areas by this natural disaster.
When I saw the eye of the storm, predicted to head towards my town on weather maps, two days prior to its touchdown, I was nervous; and when I’m nervous, I joke. I add sarcasm to my realm. I guess it’s a coping mechanism that I have. Some may relate. Some make take offense. However, beneath that façade of humor, I never once lost touch with reality and the seriousness of the situation. And in this case, the seriousness couldn’t have been painted on my wall with stronger colors. If God decided to draw a bulls-eye on my town, he couldn’t have drawn the eye of the hurricane with more accuracy.
On Monday night, as I sat on the living room floor with my 7 year-old daughter listening to the winds howl and the sheering of shingles as they flew off my roof in candlelight after losing power, I was scared. When she asked, “What’s that?” with wide eyes and a fearful tremble in her voice, I said “That’s just the wind. It will be ok,” - and in my mind I knew that the shingles weren’t the only thing ripping off my roof, and Tyvek was flapping in the breeze, I put on my brave face and reassured her that all would be fine.
Parents do that. Parents swallow the bad; they swallow the real, and they make everything ok.
I worried. But worry doesn’t stop a storm.
The next morning I awoke to silent winds but I was afraid to look out my window. I had no power since the evening before. The house was cold. No power = no heat. I shivered, but my body and brain could not separate if it were because of the chill in the air or because of the chill in my bones.
I turned on my cell phone which I silenced the night before – because I knew that I didn’t have power and the only way I could count on charging my phone was by the grace of my car. It beeped. It was a sign of life. But – I had no phone signal. And, the battery charge was pretty low.
I got out of bed, in my not-so-designer pj’s, (and definitely not designer heels – shocker!) and told my sleepy-eyed daughter to put on her coat. We were going for a drive. Not a scenic drive. I wanted to charge my phone and get a phone signal. I wanted to find out what happened around me. Were roads open? How badly were they flooded? My mind raced as I thought about who to call first – the insurance company to tell them I needed a roof yesterday, or PSE&G to find out when I could expect to regain power.
I dialed numbers and got dropped calls. I aimed my phone out my car window in the residual rain and prayed for one extra bar of signal. I drove a half a block down and saw a gentleman dragging part of a fallen tree from his front yard. Instinct jumped out of my mouth and asked “Are you ok?”. He turned to me and said “We don’t have power.” I replied, “I don’t either.” He then gave me a dismissive look and said “Good luck” with a sarcastic tone and half slit eyes and then turned away.
He couldn’t even look me in the eye.
I was speechless. Here I was, instinctively asking if he needed anything. What did I have to offer? A woman, with a child – A dry car? A ½ a bar phone signal? A few bottles of water? I had no power. Heck, I didn’t even have a leak-proof roof over my head. And he, wished me, a mouthful of sarcastic “Good luck”.
If his child needed water, I would have given him a bottle. If that tree had crashed through his living room window, I was prepared to offer some semblance of shelter. I didn’t think about it. I just FELT I would be there for someone in need.
His every-man-for-himself reaction shocked me. Maybe I’m naïve. Maybe most people don’t walk forth with their hearts set front and center. Maybe I should have expected his heartless remark.
I drove on past uprooted trees and debris.
A few doors down a family whom I did not know was standing outside snapping photos of the chimney that separated from their home. I think my mouth just dropped open in disbelief of what I saw as they stared at a pile of rubble formerly known as their home which now lie on the grass in their yard. I rolled down my car window as tears rolled down my cheeks and asked if they were ok. They replied that they were. Then, despite their misfortune, asked me, a total stranger, if I was ok, too.
In less than five minutes my faith was restored in humanity. Here was a family without power. With a very damaged house – asking me if I was ok.
I guess it takes a natural disaster of catastrophic proportions to display the true colors of people. Maybe in retrospect it’s better to know who has a softer shade of heart and who sports a hardened hue of hate.
With downed power lines in the cold, where thousands
of people shiver as they sleep;
with houses surrounded by waters that have pervasively
permeated their premises destroying decades of delight
with damage along the Jersey Shore;
how is it possible that the human response can be anything
other than heartfelt sympathy and a willingness to help?
The iconic Atlantic City boardwalk – no more.
Seaside Heights boardwalk of summer memories are days of yesteryear.
Roads are impassible because of high waters and remaining sand.
How can there be those who have no sympathy for the devastation left behind? They hoard their generator borne power because ? - it costs them nothing to give the gift of kindness to a neighbor and warm a child’s body while she sleeps?
I hear stories of looters by boat and by foot - preying upon those empty homes belonging to people who have had to evacuate to save their own lives.
There are selfish souls who have generators, too stingy to invite over their fellow man to sleep on their floor so they have some warmth as they sleep.
People starting fights at gas stations. Dirty looks exchanged over the last pack of batteries in a store.
I’m sickened by these selfish actions.
In times like these, we see the bones of the soul bared. We are indebted to those generous people who are giving of the little that they have for the many; and we feel the barbs of the arrows shot from the eyes who selfishly satisfy themselves and do not share a smidgen of sympathy for those who would be most grateful to receive even a glimmer of a gift of grace.
The simplest acts of kindness never go forgotten. They are remembered most fondly and appreciated magnanimously.
Thank you to the woman with the damaged house who looked upon us with her heart. Thank you to my wonderful neighbors who offered a hot meal and their home for a few hours. Thank you to the man and his son who brought coolers filled with bags of ice to my doorstep so I could try to preserve my food for a few days. Thank you to my wonderful friends and even strangers who reached out with concern and compassion near and far, from here to all the way around the world.
You will never be forgotten.
· Volunteers who can haul debris away in trucks
· Gas powered chain saws
· Gas for generators, chain saws, and cars
· Warm, dry clothing in all sizes for men and women
· Roofers, carpenters, electricians (especially those who can work with the power companies to restore power)
· Generators (for heat and light – it’s cold here)
· Dump trucks for hauling debris, trees, fallen houses
· Heavy machinery for plowing sand off roads and getting it back on the shoreline
· Roofing supplies, wood to board up windows and doors, nails, hammers
· Bottled water
· Dog food and cat food
· Non electric can openers
· Paper plates, cups, plastic cups, disposable utensils, paper towels, toiletries, paper products, garbage bags
· Clean towels
· Flashlights, batteries, candles, lighters
· Heavy duty and regular extension cords and power strips to hook up to generators
· Non-perishable food and drink that does NOT need to be cooked, refrigerated or opened with can openers. Think nutritious food – juices, granola bars, pop tarts, non-refrigerated milk, cereals, and fruit in containers
· Portable hot spots for Wi-Fi
I have sporadic internet access and unfortunately do not have phone numbers or contact names of organizations in the area who are coordinating rescue and rebuild efforts. I do not know where to send the supplies right now with a specific address. If anyone has that information, please post it here in the comments so those who want to help have a point of contact. The list of what is needed is NOT a complete or comprehensive list of supplies and efforts, but it is what I have noticed is necessary from my personal point of view.
Additionally, if you cannot get in touch with an official organization coordinating rescue and rebuild efforts, please remember, even if you drive here with one generator and remove one tree from someone’s yard or supply one house with electricity you have made a difference.
Driving around is not allowed in all affected areas yet as of November 1st. There are downed power lines, debris and trees blocking roads. Flooding is still in parts. Gas is hard to come by so you need to have a route planned and a few alternate routes as back-up plans and maybe bring extra gas with you. Bring sleeping bags, tents, and don’t plan on getting hotel rooms. Many hotels do not have power and the ones that do are booked solid. Be prepared to “rough it”, bring winter coats, blankets, flashlights, and candles.
We may not be able to offer much in return right now, but please know that the thousands of us are thankful from the bottom of our hearts. There are people with much greater devastation than I have experienced or seen. So many have lost their homes. My heart goes out to them and when I’m back on my feet, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and do what I can to help one person at a time.
(Personally, I will be ok. I have friends and family that I have been in contact with and we are pooling food, supplies, and opening our homes to each other. Love to all – The Lady in Red)
Need Help or Want to Help?
Need help in the wake of Hurricane Sandy? Looking to help someone? Go here: http://shorehelpers.com/
Want to help the animals affected by Hurricane Sandy by donating pet supplies or money? Go here: http://www.theyonlyliveonce.org/#!home/mainPage