It’s one thing to see destruction on TV and another to walk down your street, turn a few corners, and see it for yourself. You can’t change the channel when it’s right in front of you. When I lived in Florida and worked for TWLOHA, I knew that a hurricane was a possibility, but in New York it is virtually unheard of to see damage of this kind from a storm. Most New Yorkers never have disaster far from their minds, but it’s rarely a disaster of the natural kind that we fear. To say that Hurricane Sandy blindsided my city and the surrounding areas is a pretty large understatement.
I live in Staten Island, NY. We are a borough of New York City and one of the areas hit hardest by Sandy, primarily because we are surrounded by water and have many low lying areas. I am extremely blessed to live in a location that was protected from flooding and the worst damage caused by Sandy, but many here are not as fortunate. One of my best friends no longer has his home. The photos of what used to be his living room are haunting. Thousands are experiencing similar devastation.
It is impossible to quantify the loss. Numbers will tell you that half the lives lost in New York State were lost in my hometown. Many are still missing. Numbers can also tell you things like how many power outages we have and how many volunteers the Red Cross is sending, but our loss goes so far beyond the numbers. People lost the ones they love. People lost the homes and places that mattered most to them. Places where I celebrated proms, graduations, and other milestones are gone. The amusement park in Seaside, New Jersey and the boardwalks I spent my summers at were taken by the Atlantic Ocean. Locations that held joyful memories for so many people have been washed away. These are just physical buildings, but their absence means that the things that were most familiar now cease to exist.
It is easy to find things to say about the destruction. It’s harder to write about how and why there is hope to be found in the days ahead, but it is very important to me that I share that, too. If you’ve been watching the news, you have probably already seen photos and videos of the damage. What you have likely seen less of are the beautiful ways people are caring for one another. There are glimmers of hope in the midst of a still sometimes literal sea of destruction.
For me personally, hope is my high school graduating class pulling together to volunteer as a team, just like we did five years ago. Most of us haven’t seen each other since then. Hope looks like two gentlemen from Alabama, who drove up with their utility crew to volunteer their time and services. They called my mother “ma’am” and it made her smile. Hope has different faces for each of us, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share it here. Writing about the positive and hopeful things gives me time to think about them and how proud I am, as always, to be a New Yorker.
If you are in New York City, New Jersey, or one of the other affected areas, please know our thoughts and prayers are with you and for you. I speak specifically to the area that I know the best, but I know that my home is just one of many that experienced Hurricane Sandy. I hope in my heart that each of you have seen the kindness of others in your community as you begin to recover from this tragedy. You are not alone. A woman I respect very much said to me today, “We may not have power, but I can’t feel powerless.” I hope you’re inspired by that. I know I was. If you are able to safely, consider volunteering at a local shelter or donation facility in your area.
For those of you elsewhere, please don’t forget about us. Prayers, good vibes, and well wishes are all welcome. This will take months and years of rebuilding, but we will rebuild. For many, the reality is that their lives will never be the same. If you are able to donate funds or resources, those are much needed as well. For many people here, just knowing that there are others out there caring about them and spreading the word will make a world of difference.
Much love from New York,
P.S. To find out how you can help, click here.