As I sit here in a mostly dark room, listening to the peaceful breathing of my son sleeping next to me, I’m so thankful. I’m thankful for so many things, even as I sit here in a crappy but dry and warm motel room. I am so glad I listened to the authorities and fled the direct path of Hurricane Sandy, that I didn’t have to watch the water rise outside my house and sit in fear with my children that our house would flood while we were in it.
As I sit here in the dark, I don’t know what I will find when they finally clean up enough to let us return to our homes. So many of my friends and neighbors stayed behind, and the images that they have captured are terrifying and devastating and unbelievable. I know the quiet, little, friendly island I left on Sunday afternoon is no longer the same place. When I hear of pieces of houses in the streets, saw the pictures of the water up to my porch, and my house is raised since it’s near the bay, my eyes fill with tears, as they are now. My heart aches for what we have lost. I know without any uncertainty that my little, sweet town will come together, stronger than they ever do (and it’s an amazing community to begin with) and rebuild. I know that if my house was damaged, I will rebuild. And we will all be stronger than ever. Even though we’re torn apart.
I spent most of my life living in the Gulf Coast. Hurricane warnings and watches were part of my childhood. I remember sitting in the kitchen during Hurricane Alicia in 1983, eating soup heated by a sterno can, watching shingles blow off my neighbor’s roof, one by one; all of us sleeping on mattresses dragged into the family room since there were no outside windows in that room. Then watching the devastation of downtown Houston on tv once our power was restored. But I never felt scared. I knew my parents would keep me safe. I’m hoping my children felt the same way as they watched the storm on tv, and on pictures on my laptop, and listened to the wind howling outside.
I remember Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, watching on tv as my city flooded and 18-wheelers were under water. The 36″ of rain we received in under 2 days was devastating. But I was thankfully high and dry.
I never would have thought, moving from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast, that I would be forced to evacuate for a hurricane/nor’easter hybrid storm, at the end of October, and not be able to return to my house until days later because there was such widespread devastation.
I sit here not knowing whether my house was flooded, my belongings ruined, my memories waterlogged, or if I will only have to worry about the contents of my garage being damaged and having to worry about having the under part of my house checked out to make sure there is no damage to the stability of the house since my crawl-space was filled with water. When I first saw the picture of my street, with probably at least 4 feet of water flowing down it, surrounding our homes, invading our garages and crawl-spaces and yards, I burst into tears. I have been through more than my share of tragedy and pain and loss in my life. But thankfully never of this nature. I am an amazingly strong and resilient woman. Yet I wondered at that moment whether I had the strength to get through this, to keep life normal for my kids as our home was destroyed.
Of course, that moment passed and my strength came back and my tears turned to bad jokes, the kind I usually make to keep from crying. Like how my vote is now up for sale to whomever offers me more (FEMA) money for my house. Or how I wanted to renovate and now could do it courtesy of Sandy, the insurance company, and FEMA. Or even how my island is such a cool place it has sharks swimming around on the island and how so many of our homes now have indoor pools.
After just viewing more pictures posted on Facebook by my local police department, I was just in tears again. It doesn’t take much these days. We have streets that have been destroyed, homes torn apart, sand and water and debris everywhere. Yet as I said, Brigantine is an amazing community. That’s one thing I’ve always loved about it. People will come together and help each other out, and we will rebuild. We will hold each other up and pick up the pieces and put them back together.
I’ve often seen pictures of those in ravaged areas. I always felt bad for them, couldn’t even begin to imagine going through that. Now I’m sitting here, grasping for every bit of information from my home, waiting impatiently for the danger to be cleared and the authorities to declare it safe for us to return, to begin to assess our damages and rebuild our homes and take our lives off hold and start living them again. For that is how it feels. It feels, sitting in this motel room not 20 minutes from my home, that my life is on hold and will begin again once I can go home.
In the meantime, I’ve been given the rare gift of a few days off from my regular life,