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Now Sandy was about a month ago. And now seems the perfect time to reflect on what happened to me.
I live on Long Island. All of Long Island was affected differently. I was fortunate enough to be in an area that was hit hard, but not devastated. Devastated, what a word, but there isn’t one powerful enough to describe what happened to some families. Sandy was the real deal.
Now back to my story. Before she hit, she was on every news station. Everyone and their brother was covering the ‘Frankenstorm on the east coast.’ They made her sound bad, like they always do with storms like this. I figured it was a strategy to get more viewers to their channel. Being that hurricanes don’t hit Long Island very often, and the ones that have (or at least the ones that I was alive to experience) haven’t been too bad. Here I was thinking that Sandy would show up to my front door, huff and puff and try to blow my house down, then run away with her tail between her legs to try her luck on another town.
I was wrong.
The power went out the night of the storm. Even though I was getting ready to go to bed, it was a wake-up call. Maybe this storm is going to be a tad worse than expected… Nah, I bet we’ll get power back tomorrow. Guess I’ll just have to tough it out until then.
I got power back on Day 13 after the storm.
Now, during my freshman orientation for Baruch, I was let in on a little insider information: like my high school, Baruch tends not to close too often. If the subways are down and the weather is exceptionally bad, then the school may decide to shut down for a day. But essentially, don’t get your hopes up because it rarely happens.
School was cancelled for a week.
So let’s get this straight. School was closed for a whole week, and I had no power for 13 days after the storm. Which obviously means that I had no power during the time school was closed. What did I do you ask? Well, besides the cold showers, morgue showers (I worked in a hospital, and when it got power, I went to the morgue and used the shower that they had in it), lack of internet, no electronic devices, no cell phone signal, no freezer, spoiled meats, gas lines, no ice, barbequed foods each night, nothing in grocery stores, trees down, power lines lying lifeless in the street, and lots and lots of darkness; something pretty profound happened to me.
I picked up a book. ‘Wait, you picked up a book, who cares…?’ Well let me explain.
I never read books. Never. A teacher would assign one, and I’d look up the summary. I hated reading and reading hated me, we had a mutual relationship. So why did I pick up a book in the first place? Frankly, I was bored. Boredom like you wouldn’t believe. So I went to my basement, picked out a nice 600 page Stephen King book and got crackin’. Bag of Bones was the title and I couldn’t put the damn thing down. It was the most interesting experience of my life. I loved reading it. Now I don’t love many things, but ‘reading that book’ made the list. The story, the characters, the horror, It was amazing and I was hooked.
I’ve read three other Stephen King books after the incident. I can’t stop. I don’t plan on stopping either.
I’ve filled a little void in my life and, despite everything, I thank Sandy for this.
When the storm began on Monday, October the 29th, I was sleeping soundlessly, relieved that school was cancelled, in my dorm room at the lower east side of Manhattan, not paying attention to how big and destructive this predicted storm could be. At around 2 o’clock in the afternoon, I was awaken by my parents’ nervous phone call asking if I would go home because they feared Manhattan would get hit really hard and I wouldn’t be able to get out when I actually needed to. Deciding that visiting home would be nice for a change, I agreed on it after receiving a text message saying classes would also be cancelled the next day as well, so my in the midst of the storm my parents drove out from Long Island to Manhattan.
Only after entering the car and heading home, I realized how serious this storm could be. The usually overcrowded, bumper-to-bumper packed Long Island Expressway was completely empty with the exception of a few others also on the road. The wind and light, but piercing rain smacked onto the car windows as we drove slowly and cautiously down the highway. But right before our exit, there was a SUV flipped over on the other side of the highway, with police cars, ambulance, and a fire truck circled around it, but thankfully no one seemed to be hurt in the accident. Immediately I realized how serious this storm was going to be.
The next morning after the storm had passed, I walked around my block to examine the damages that had been done during the night. Although a tree had fallen in our backyard, we were lucky enough it did not fall on top of our roof and cause any problems, and compared to the other trees that had fallen on our block, it was nothing. There were countless trees who had roots that looked like they were dragged out from beneath the ground laid across the streets tangled up in electrical wires and blocking streets and driveways. Trees that had leaves before the storm were standing leafless from the strength of the wind from the night before that ripped the leaves off of them.
And what may or may not seem like the worst was that we were without power and heat for two weeks. The electricity had been shut down before the height of the storm, but even days after the storm had passed, there was yet any electricity running through my neighborhood. Desperate to complete certain assignments in time, I decided to go to the stores nearby my area that were lucky enough to have power throughout the entire storm, however due to the enormous population of people who had also lost power, there were limits to how long you could stay in a store and charge your phone or laptop, so for the next few days I was store hopping trying to charge up my devices. But in the end, it taught me to value the technology I had as well as realize how much my life and everyday actions were revolved around my electronic devices rather than what is right there in front of me, my family. And from this week off I was able to catch up on family bonding time and just readjusting to the presence of my family after living away from home in my dorm for so long.
I spent all of Tuesday on my laptop, in pure of awe of what New York had just gone through. Subways were filled with water. Parts of New York had lost power for days and even weeks. Trees had demolished several cars, houses and unfortunately, lives.
Once the winds had died down and the rain calmed, I grabbed my jacket and went for a walk. I wanted to see what my neighborhood was like. The first turn I made on my block and I saw a giant tree, completely uprooted, resting on someone’s house. Patches of cement from the sidewalk, much larger than I, were ripped off the ground with the trees. Cars were crushed by trees on top of them, while luckily no one was hurt.
The whole experience with Hurricane Sandy really helped me realize the importance of the things we rely on. The city was incapable of functioning without electricity. The feeling of not having power made people feel as if they were trapped and needed to get out of the situation. There was no transportation and today we face 3 hour lines for gasoline. Even a week later, we still see how the Hurricane has lasting effect on the city…
“There are mass evacuations taking place in low lying areas…” I heard on CNN
“The entire transit system of New York City and New Jersey will start shutting down…” I heard on NY1
“Bloomberg is preparing the city for unseen damages, possibly totaling $10 billion…” I heard on Fox News
I on the other hand expected this storm to be rain and just that. When Hurricane Irene was brewing up near North Carolina last year, everyone was afraid for catastrophe and although it affected some smaller states, it didn’t have much of an effect on New York City. I figured that if Hurricane Sandy was only a Category 1 hurricane, it would be nothing to Hurricane Irene.
What was supposed to be a 30 minute ride to the supermarket ended up being a 3 hour disappointment. I was supposed to just run some errands at two nearby stores but faced the problem of finding parking, finding a cart, and getting through interminable lines. Never in my life had I seen so many people at these stores. Everyone was gearing up for a strong storm, yet I still convinced myself that it would be minor.
2 days later.
“They are estimating $20 billion dollars worth of damage…” said CNN
“Hurricane fires have burned down 80 to 100 houses…” said NY1
“In it’s 108 years, the MTA has never seen a storm like this…” said the Governor
I was shocked that a storm I expected to be mere drizzles had such a catastrophic effect. For the first time in history, the New York Stock Exchange was closed for 3 days, due to weather conditions. I spent all of Tuesday just sitting on my laptop looking at the debris this storm left behind. I had never seen New York so vulnerable before, with the entire city shut down. It really taught me the reality of how strong nature can be.
“In all my years I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s like Katrina in New York,” my mother said as she looked outside. You’ll never know what it’s like until you’re forced to look it in the face.
From the car window, I had a view of a war zone. A heap of tree limbs mixed with sheet rock mixed with wood and nails blocked the roads. People with gray faces and deep set eyes entered through their garages and came back with sheet rock and ruined furniture to deposit onto the side of the street; emotionless, like slaves. Every gas station on the boulevard was bordered with orange cones. Desolate. As we turned onto the block where my grandparents reside, we slowed down to observe a large boat that gruesomely jut into the side of a house, laying on a heap of backyard fence. There were cars spread out in abnormal formations in the middle of the road, all of them weathered with sea water. Beneath the lopsided sign that read “Roma Street” were hills of hay from the ocean, rubble and sediment. A Mercedes was half buried under a pile of straw. On my grandma’s neighbor’s lawn was what looked like a brand new washing machine, tossed into the heap of garbage in the front lawn. Couches, end tables, shoes, coats, rugs, shards of glass. I stepped out of the parked car with caution, and stepped onto a sidewalk coated in yellow-brown mud.
Nonni’s neighborhood looked like a post-apocalyptic field. Inside, the hallway that used to smell like musty roses now smelled like putrid mold. Nonno’s shoes in the closet were wilting, soaked. The water mark was about four feet high; I couldn’t imagine it flooding their house at this height. Nonna used to have these gorgeous white knit pillows (very 70’s), but now they were sprawled across the floor, stained with brown. Plants knocked over, dirt everywhere. My childhood coloring books and drawings thrown like a piece of shit. Mom’s old typewriter face down on the floor. What hit me the most, however, was seeing Nonna’s garden in pieces–that was her pride, a project she had been working on for years.
Where do we begin? It’s a question that thousands of Staten Islanders are asking.
Laura is the tenant (a single mom) that lives downstairs. I saw her last month, but it looked like she had aged about 10 years. Her wrinkles traced heavy lines of gray on her skinny face. Hair frizzy, tired eyes. Victoria is her 17 year old daughter. She was one of the few people I know that always wore a smile. But her face, like her mothers, was dry, gray and aged. They waited out the storm and now regret it, Laura said. She motioned a hand, placing it midway up her thigh. “The water was up to here. Our brand new couch was floating like a raft.” Their mattresses were soaked, so they had to sleep over a friend’s house.
The mailman came by and I overheard his conversation with the neighbor. “I’m alright. I’m trying to deal with the loss of my sister.”
This is real. You’d never think this would happen to such a quiet, normal suburban neighborhood. We see those stories on TV and think, these things don’t happen to people like us. But they do, and at the worst of times. My family was very fortunate, but others were not so fortunate.
A hurricane? It shouldn’t be too bad. I’ll stay in my dorm for the weekend, it won’t be a big deal. Growing up in a neighborhood like Fresh Meadows, I’ve never seen anything happen because of these hurricanes. The worst that’d happen were a few trees here and there being knocked over, but even then, there were no damages.
I guess that was an understatement. Even though I had doubts, I went to the grocery store early Sunday evening, picked up some food, and waited about half an hour in line. When I got back to my dorm, I packed my duffle back with a few bottles of water, some chips and cookies, and a flashlight. School was already closed and I was ready to sleep in to catch up on all the hours I lost from staying up late the week before. I had a few papers that were postponed due to the hurricane so everything was grand and dandy. The dark clouds started rolling in and the winds started picking up. Even through my headphones and the sounds of my friends joking and laughing in our video chat, I heard the wind howling and slapping against my thin dorm windows. The windows were closed but the windows were shaking and blinds were dancing. I decided to go to bed to avoid how scary Sandy seemed to be.
The next morning, I looked out the window. The trees had dressed the streets and the top of cars with their leaves. I was surprised none of them had fallen, considering how fragile they normally seem. The skies were gray and everything was quiet. I thought that it wasn’t such a bad storm until I turned on the TV and checked my phone. The news showed a ton of different places that were strongly affected by the storm. A bunch of my friends had texted me saying they lost power and had to evacuate their homes. I got a text message from my brother telling me a few trees had fallen into our yard. My building was fortunate enough to still have power and hot water. With the subway completely shut down and suspended, I had nothing to do but snuggle in bed and watch movies on my laptop.
School turned out to be closed for the rest of the week. I was a little frustrated; if I had known, I would have gone home as soon as possible. I decided to go home on Thursday night and what usually took me a little over an hour to get home, it took me three full hours because of train problems. When I finally did get home, I found a little welcome-home-surprise.
This hurricane did not affect me as harshly as it had affected other people in various areas of New York City. However, my family learned that we should always stock up on food in the future before a hurricane. In the past, we relied on the bakeries and supermarkets in our neighborhood for food and other necessities. It did not occur to us that stores might not have food in stock after the hurricane. As a result, I did not purchase more food beforehand. For the entire week, we had to live off of the food that was already in my refrigerator. We were fortunate in that we had just enough food to last us a couple of days.
The night before the hurricane, I was worried that the old tree in front of my house would collapse. Trees in my backyard have also been there for over a century, and they were definitely large enough to damage the house. On the day of the hurricane, I spent hours listening to the news as weather channels tracked the path of Hurricane Sandy. Every time the trees swayed violently, I became more worried. However, I tried to stay optimistic, and chose to describe them as “dancing trees.” The sound of strong winds continuously banged against the windows. I began to realize that this was one of the few times that my house was actually loud. It was very different from the quiet and calm environment that I was used to; the sound of the wind made the house livelier. I had to continuously tell myself this so I could stop worrying.
Facebook was another crucial source for me to communicate with friends and family. With every click of the refresh button, I found more pictures of places around NYC that was flooded. Just from looking at the pictures, I can almost hear the waves crashing onto the sidewalk, washing away whatever had been there. People who were in the west also sent me photos of the latest places that had flooded. This goes to show that Hurricane Sandy did not only affect people living on the East Coast; those who lived on the West Coast were paying close attention to the progress of Hurricane Sandy also.
I finally forced myself to sleep when I realized that those who were affected by the hurricane would not be able to receive assistance until days later when everything calms down. Although this idea was not comforting, there was nothing I was able to do except to hope for the best.
Last weekend, I heard from the news that Hurricane Sandy is coming. Although I didn’t expect it to be this bad, I was kind of hoping that the storm could get me a short break from the schoolwork. Who would’ve thought that this small break I hoped turned out to be a “buy 2 days rains get 5 days power outrage free” package? Ever since Saturday, I had been following the news almost 24/7, hoping to find some useful information about the hurricane. Apparently, the information was useful, but I did not quite believe it. Like many others in the city, I was comparing it to Hurricane Irene and thus thought to myself: how bad could it be?
Well, it was really bad. On Monday at about 8 p.m., when I looked out my window, this is what I saw:
Although the water didn’t get to my building at all, it was stunning to see the east river water covering the ground of Roosevelt Island! I immediately went down to the ground floor with my phone, wanting to get more photos of the water, but none of the new photos were as shocking as the first one I took from my window.
The water didn’t stay too long, when my mom and I look out the window at about 2a.m., the water was already gone. Still, comparing this to the raindrops of Irene, Irene was a baby! Before I went to bed, I thought to myself: This is only Zone B, where they said evacuation was unnecessary; I wonder what happened in Zone A like Battery Park?
As we all know now—power outrage happened. New York City was split into two by lights.
The day before tragedy struck, I went home so I could attend a NY Jets vs. Miami Dolphins football game with my family Sunday afternoon. After the game, my parents broke the news to me that I could not go back to my dorm room, and I would be spending at least Monday at home. With that said, we spent the entire Sunday evening preparing for the storm: shopping for food and waiting in line for gas.
When Sandy began, I remember seeing my friends from all over posting on the Internet, from their smart phones, how they had lost power. My neighborhood was one of the lucky ones. We lost power around 9:30 PM and most of us didn’t regain it until Thursday night, or Friday morning. During our time in the darkness, my friends and I did anything to occupy us. For two days we played hours of pick-up basketball in the street, followed by countless games of Monopoly. It seemed as though once seven o’clock struck, the day was over because the sky turned pitch black.
What irked me was seeing the devastation that my borough had experienced. I remember driving around with my dad the morning after to look at the damage in my neighborhood by the water. It was devastating. Trees were down. Boats were in the middle of streets. Homes were flooded, and some were even uprooted by the massive 15-foot waves. My dad and I got out of the car at his friend’s house, which faces the water of Staten Island, to make sure that him and his family were OK. Although they were OK, next door there used to be a pub. Now, the bar was on the ground completely crushed, and the owner stared desolately at his property.
Unfortunately, my college did a poor job of informing us when we would officially return to school because they did not know when they would restore power. I had to go back to my dorm, just in case I had class the following day. Late Wednesday evening, I returned thinking there would be school the next day; It turns out, there was no school. This bothered me greatly because I could have been home with my friends helping out clean up the homes of people in our neighborhoods.
Just before midnight on Wednesday, a friend informed me that she would be heading out to Long Island Thursday morning to volunteer with the Red Cross. I figured if I could not help the people of Staten Island, I might as well help out my fellow New Yorkers. I spent the day giving out lunch and dinner to those who lost their home and everything inside of it. Listening to some of their stories makes you truly grateful for everything that you have in your life.
Still, as I sit here writing my “Sandy story,” something does not feel right. Here I am at school, going about my business as if nothing has happened. In reality, my home, Staten Island, is in ruins. Those people need help, and unfortunately for quite some time Staten Island was “forgotten.” People always joke and kid about how Staten Island is the forgotten borough, but it’s actually true. If there was no outcry from the people of Staten Island, there was a good possibility that these people would still be neglected.
It’s sad to say, but I have heard multiple stories of people I knew whose houses were flooded, damaged, or even destroyed. An alumnus from my high school track team, who is also an army veteran, rounded up a bunch of his friends the days following the storm. They called themselves the “Brown Cross” because they knew they were going to have to get their hands dirty to help out. This group, which started out as a small circle of eight friends, has grown to over 100+ volunteers including many of my fellow teammates from my high school track team. Although the rebuilding process may take weeks, or even months, for some, I look forward to going home and helping these guys out on the front line.
While Sandy had little to no effect on many people, it devastated others. A tragic event like this allowed me to evaluate life and put a lot of things into perspective. My family was fortunate enough to only lose power for a few days. I feel as though I owe it to Staten Island to do whatever I can to help speed up this recovery process. But most importantly, I learned that we should appreciate everything we have because the next day it could all be taken from us.
After preparing for the storm by shopping and doing laundry, I felt I was prepared for Hurricane Sandy. I had a bag packed with a flashlight, clothes, drinks and food in case I needed to be evacuated from my dorm. I heard that subways were shutting down at 7 PM Sunday night in preparation for Sandy, so once it hit seven, everything for me got tenser. It was already dark and windy, but the rain had not come yet.
We had heard earlier that day that we were not going to have class on Monday, so I was doing a little work to get ahead, but mostly procrastinating when the storm started to hit. Even through the music in my headphones, sixteen floors up from the ground and I could still hear the wind whipping outside and the rain falling hard. My windows were shaking and cold and I was afraid they would break. I moved my printer away from the window in case the worst happened.
Occasionally I walked away from my computer to the window to look outside. The streetlights were dim, but I could see the trees shaking and garbage blowing around. There were still leaves on the tree outside. There were no people and no cars going around, an odd moment for the streets of NYC. I heard terrible stories of how First Avenue was flooded, how bad downtown looked, and how downtown had lost power. I watched the storm for minutes at a time throughout the night, going back to my computer between intervals, until I went to bed.
The next morning I woke up and it was still dark and cloudy. The rain had stopped, but that tree from last night had no more leaves. I was surprised it was even standing. In the aftermath of the storm, I saw pictures of my high school, Stuyvesant, with water up to the wall I used to sit on. It was at least four feet off the ground too, not a short wall. Seeing the subways flooded and all the wreckage in Staten Island and Queens made me realize what a terrible disaster had occurred.
From the Upper East Side, I didn’t get to see first hand the true ruins of Sandy. Only in pictures could I see the boats washed ashore in Staten Island, or the houses blown away in Queens. The rest of the city wasn’t so lucky. My friend from Chinatown came up to my dorm just to use power to charge his phone and check his college applications. The trip that usually took him 40 minutes took him 3 hours. I was one of the lucky ones and don’t have first hand photos of destruction to show. I wasn’t too affected; I still have power and Internet. My family in Queens was lucky too and I’m thankful for that. But for my family and I, we know others were much less fortunate than us and we hope to help out the best we can.
Dear Arts Class,
Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow in 1404–23rd Street for our session with photographer, Max Flatow.
I am adding a new, extra-credit assignment: a personal post of your Hurricane Sandy experience, if possible with photos and video. Do upload it to our blog. I will add a new category: Hurricane Sandy!
To “trick-or-treat”, or not to “trick-or-treat”, that is the question.
As we all know, Halloween fell on the same day thousands of New Yorkers were still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. Personally, I was surprised that I didn’t get hit at all, but this isn’t about my home. It is about the homes of all New Yorkers. Some homes were flooded so bad, that people threw away their belongings and don’t even compare your problems after you hear the horror at Breezy Point.
Halloween is considered a happy holiday. Children go house to house for candy. Then, they come home and eat it all up. The argument is that is still too soon. Not everything is back to normal. The Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, even moved Halloween to Monday. What did I see in my neighborhood? I saw kids going around and eating their candy. Then I went to my grandma’s neighborhood, which had no streetlights at all, no kids were there. In Brighton Beach, it was the same story as in Coney Island and Gerritsen Beach. It was an interesting disparity to see.
Some people who I have talked to argued that children are innocent and they should understand that the world isn’t perfect, but taking them “trick-or-treating” is a sign of hope that everyone will be okay.
Others say that it is not right. How can your children go “trick-or-treating”, when so many other children have no access to electricity, hot water, and have their homes flooded?
It is an ethical issue, if you ask me. What would you do?
Then, my sister asked my mom if she could go “trick-or-treating”? I immediately voiced my disapproval. My sister was trying to convince my mom to let her.
My mom came up with a solution. “If ten kids come to our home and ask for candy, we will go ‘trick-or-treating’,” my mom said.
Only seven kids came.
It is amazing how our society is entirely rooted on technology that requires the constant influx of electricity. I did not realize how vital electricity was until hurricane sandy hit. In a blink of an eye, my lights turned off. Television, computers, microwaves, and my alarm clock all became obsolete.
I walked around my house to access the powerless appliances lying around my house. Pacing back and forth, I was hoping that it would only be a sudden power outage. Five minutes passed and nothing came back. I decided to take nap thinking maybe after an hour or two it would be back. After two hours, the power was still out. I was not prepared for this.
However, my parents were prepared and had bought candles, flashlights and food. Things became interesting when I became bored. Sitting around with nothing to do, I realized that in the past there was not any electricity. Without electricity, we were essentially sent back to a time when things were simpler.
I quickly realized that our society is incredibly fast paced and information if constantly being spread. Everything changed on this one night. For the first time, I did not feel that 24 hours was too little time in a day. I used my time to talk with my parents and sleep. I felt relaxed and free of stress as I felt like I had all the time in the world.
Looking outside of my house, the neighborhood was pitch black. Cars were nowhere to be seen. It truly felt like my neighborhood had been sent back to a simpler time.