I would be remiss if I did not write about my experiences during the biggest Hurricane of my lifetime. I must begin with my thanks to G-d. I am grateful that I had no damage to my home. I am thankful that all my family and friends are safe.
In preparation for the storm, we made sure we had food (we always stock up big time anyway), flashlights, candles, crafts and projects for the kids, and enough apps to keep the kids busy.
We spent 3 hours at the park on Sunday so the kids had a chance to be outside and to get all their energy out so they would not get stir-crazy.
Monday was spent indoors; we watched as the wind accelerated. We literally watched the last leaf on our tree sway back and forth until it could no longer bear the resistance, could no longer hold on.
At lunch time we made homemade pizzas and enjoyed the family time. It is not every day that I get to spend a full day home with my kids. By 2 pm it was clear that it was not safe to be outdoors so we began the crafts. Jeremy is absolutely brilliant. He bought lanyard! This provided hours and hours of entertainment. Jeremy also remembers every last stitch. I only remembered box stitch and chinese staircase. He could add cobra, twisted cobra, barrel, and zipper to the mix. We kept busy that afternoon baking hot dog buns to go with our planned hot dog dinner because we forgot to buy them. When the oven beeped, it was already 5:45 pm and we quickly put the hot dogs in the oven.
At 6 pm as the hurricane made landfall, our power went out. The oven did not work anymore. We boiled the hot dogs instead, but the buns were so delicious that it almost didn't matter.
At 9 pm, thankfully after the children were asleep, we saw the sky light up like fireworks in red, blue and green while listening to radio reports tracking the storm. The damage was still not known.
Our cell phone service was terrible in the house so we could not really get in touch with others. I was able to get service on Tuesday outside in the car or down the block. I retrieved my emails, tweets, and messages. I called my parents, sister, in laws. None had power. My sister in law in Queens did!
We stayed home from work and school the following day and then on Wednesday I went to work. Only a segment of my town lost power; the "other side," which includes the school building, had never lost power. The girls were able to go back to school on Thursday.
My commute is terrible because of the damage. There are limited trains, and many tunnels were closed due to flooding. And then we had a gas shortage on top of it all! I waited over an hour just to get on a bus, which took another hour home in the Nor'easter Athena that followed Sandy. Since the gas shortage eased, I have been driving in to New York City.
We were very lucky - fortunate and grateful - that we had no damage or flooding. Living without power for a week is difficult with little children. Each evening, we lit our Shabbat candles to light up our home. We put votives in each bathroom to serve as night lights. Now I understand how light and candles bring peace into the home. It is stressful living in the dark! The benefit of no power was that there were no distractions when it came to bedtime. The children somehow knew to behave and to go to bed. No sound or light could keep them awake.
Thursday night temperatures dropped to the 30s overnight. We spent the weekend at my sister in law in Queens who was hosting her in laws and grandmother (in law) who had damage to their Long Beach home. Everyone was stressed and exhausted but we had a nice time with the family.
We joined my parents at a family friend Saturday night who had a generator built into their renovated home and expected to stay through Monday. We put the kids to bed Sunday night. We were overjoyed when the calls and texts started streaming in that power at home was restored! We packed right up and went home at around 11:30 pm. Boy was it nice to walk into a warm house! With lights! And how nice to resume normal life and every day schedules!
Even with what we went through, I realize that we are the fortunate ones. Even our extended family and some of our friends who lost their basements to salt water are fortunate. The recovery and relief is just beginning. There are people who lost everything. Residents of Staten Island, the Seagate community of Brooklyn, Far Rockaway, Woodmere, Oceanside (Jeremy's Aunt and Uncle), Long Beach (my brother in law's parents, grandmother), Breezy Point, Moonachie and Little Falls NJ (5 minutes from my home) are displaced or homeless. They have to clean out the debris from their homes. They must throw out their memorabilia, photographs, and books. They must clean up their lives. Synagogues, community centers and schools have lost Torah scrolls, books, furniture and the ability to function in their respective capacities.
New Yorkers and New Jersians (okay, Connecticuters too) proved once again how resilient we are. People took in their neighbors, friends, or even strangers to provide warmth, food, and support! I know people who were hosting 40 people each night for dinner and providing warm beds to several families. Buses full of crews are going daily to clean up the affected areas and homes. People have started fundraising campaigns utilizing their online influence to collect funds for the homeless and those in need. Children have donated their old toys to other kids who lost basements-full of their favorite things.
The relief effort is just beginning but we have already proven how strong we are. We have already come together with kindness and compassion.
I hope Hurricane Sandy's lesson remains with us even after normal is restored.