Friday, October 18, 2013

A Year After Hurricane Sandy

Remembering and Moving Forward ...

It's been nearly a year since Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc at the Jersey Shore.  Our home suffered severe damage and we were displaced for over a month.  Sometimes, it's still hard to believe that we even went through what we went through.  It is true that time heals all wounds.  The more times goes by, the less I think about those days.  Then something happens, another disaster like the Tornado's that tore through Ohio, and now the horrible flooding in Colorado.  These are all just reminders at how vulnerable we all really are. 
We were not evacuated for hurricane Sandy.  There was not even a voluntary evacuation for our area.  No one knew that Sandy was going to take a slight turn at the last moment and head right for us.  The night before the storm, I felt very uneasy.  It was not like other storms in the past, I just couldn't shake that feeling.  I tried to sleep, but kept feeling sick to my stomach and just did not know why.  The next morning I listened to the news, but again no one was telling us to leave, so I thought we were safe.  As the day went on I was concerned, but had no idea what was about to come.  Around 9 that night the power went out and my husband, 10 year old son and myself watched a DVD and told stories.  We actually had a lot of fun and finally went to bed. 

About midnight, my husband awoke to a gurgling notice and stepped out of bed into water.  He woke me up and we thought it was morning.  I soon it realized that it was only midnight.  We began to put things up high, but quickly  realized that there was just no time.  We grabbed our son, dog and as much as we could and ran out to what was now nearly 3 feet of water.  We were able to get our cars started and took off.  We had no idea where to go because so many roads were flooded, but managed to find our way to a friends home. 
I will never forget driving up to our home a few days later.  The next few days are just a blur.  Nearly everything was destroyed.  There are no words to describe what it's like to see nearly everything you own destroyed and piled up in front of your house like trash.  Our home was a mess, 4 ft of walls had to be torn out, all flooring had to be torn out and replaced, every appliance was destroyed, our kitchen and bathroom destroyed.  A great deal of our furniture had to be thrown out. toys, clothing, jewelry, videos, books, Davey's school papers I saved since preschool were all just gone.  But the hardest part of what you lose are the pictures, home videos, and those things that we treasure.  My husband's postcard collection, my mother's old letters and her family pictures, just completely destroyed.  The scrapbook pages that I spent hours and hours on just gone, poems that I wrote on those pages just gone, words that I can never get back.  Our wedding video, family videos, wedding album, just gone.  I will never forget seeing my husband's face as his childhood accordion that his parents took forever to save up for just crumbled in his hands.  Those moments are the hardest for me.  I try not to remember them, because it is just too hard.  Somehow you find incredible strength and you just get through.  I'm a Catholic School girl, 12 long years.  That's right, school uniforms, crazy nuns, everything that goes with being in Catholic School.  I was taught not to pray for things, but to pray for strength.   I have done that every night since I was a little girl.  I now know why.  It is in those hard times, that God gives us incredible strength and guides us through.. 
Above is what we saw 2 days after the storm when they finally let us back into our neighborhood.

We can choose to look at tragedies like Hurricane Sandy in two ways.  It can destroy you, make you bitter and angry or you can choose to allow yourself to feel the loss, and then focus on what is really important in life. I can't tell you that Hurricane Sandy didn't change me, it did.  I can't tell you that I don't cringe every time I hear there is a new storm coming, I do.  Storms, hurricanes, tragedies like this can teach us something if we're willing to open our hearts and try to understand.  This is something I have struggled with.  Why did it happen, why us and why now?  I do believe there are reasons why everything happens in life, and God really does only give us what we can handle. I also know in my heart that we were not alone that night.  I have learned so many things about life since then.  One thing I know is that my son has such incredible strength, more than I had ever realized.  My husband handled this trying situation with incredible strength and courage and carried me and my son through.  I also realized a lot about the people around me.  I learned how incredible and giving people are; from neighbors, friends and people coming from all across the country to help us here in New Jersey. The amount of kindness and love we received here at the Jersey Shore really is incredible.  This is something I will never forget and is what helped me get through that time.  But I also learned disappointment as well. Sometimes the people you believe will be there, won't.  This has been a hard lesson for me, but it's something that I have tried to understand.  Sometimes people just don't realize what a tragedy like this is like for the people going through it.  Imagine waking up and everything from nearly 3 feet down in your home is covered in water.   Imagine having to take photo's, beautiful memories that you treasure and throw them out like garbage.   Imagine having no where to live and losing a lot of your favorite things, your child's baby memories, your favorite hairbrush, your favorite make-up, your baby's first lock of hair.  Even those little things that you don't even realize how attached you are to them.  Even now, my husband will ask me for something, and I have to remind him that it was destroyed.  Imagine waking up and it is just all gone.  That is hard to do unless you have gone through it.  
Sandy did take away something from us that we will never get back.  We've lost our innocence.  That innocence in believing nothing bad will ever happen.  I rarely worried with storms or weather issues.  I tended to blow them off.  I was the girl who showed up every single day at work, even in a State of Emergency, snowstorms, blizzards, it didn't matter, I showed up.  I was the crazy girl in the little green convertible trying to floor it to get off the exit on 280 so I could get to work, praying I wouldn't get stuck.  Yes, I was that girl that was the only one sitting at her desk in an office where no one else showed up but me.  People always told me I was crazy, but I always believed I'd be fine.  I can no longer say that.  At times I feel like a little bubble burst inside me and I now realize I am not invincible.  Life does happen and anything can happen.  Sandy took that innocence away from me...
As for today, it's nearly a year later. For the most part, I try not to think about those days. There are those moments every now and then ... but I refuse to allow that moment in my life to define who I am.  I focus on moving forward and not looking back.  Our home is still not finished and we we've been turned down for grants to raise our home, but I try not to focus on that.   Every now and then I'll hear the sound of loud wind brushing against the window at night or my driveway fills up with water during a rain storm and I that is when I will remember that night.   Sometimes, when I'm waiting outside in front of my house for my son's bus I remember what it was like seeing my house surrounded by all the water.  But just as I begin to feel sad, I see the smiling face of my son running toward me.  It is in those moments that I remember how incredibly Blessed we are, we survived, and with my son's beautiful smile, all those memories just seem to fade away and I know that we will be alright.
As my son and I came home for the first time after a month, we cheered as we turned the corner and in that moment this song, shown in the video below, just happened to come on the radio. It was such a heartwarming moment between me and my son Davey.  We both looked at each other and smiled ... and stayed outside for a moment while the song played.  Davey told me to sing it mom, and I did...

Hold on to me as you go, as we roll down this unfamiliar rode...
and although this wave is stringing us along, just know you're not alone, because I'm going to make this place your home...  

Tomorrow's A Brand New Day...

Carrie Hughes

Sometimes it's hard to accept
the many disappointments in life we face
But we have to believe there's some reason
and hold onto God's Good Grace...

For what seems to be so unfair
and so difficult for us to understand
is just a small piece of the puzzle
of our life that God has planned...
And as each door will close
they say a window will open its eyes
and life will bring about changes
and each new day a Surprise!
So believe in all of God's love
and know it surrounds you every day
With courage and strength you will make it through
for tomorrow's a Brand New Day...

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1 comment:

  1. Very nice post. I still can't believe it has been a year and so many places still are not even half way what they use to be. Best of luck to you and your family.