Hi everyone. So many of you have written such sweet posts and good wishes to my daughter who lost her home in Hurricane Sandy, that I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you. It was a shocking, traumatic experience, and a great loss to her. Most of all I am grateful that both of my daughters in New York are alive, and weren’t physically injured. And their dogs survived it too. But one step beyond that, there are the things we cherish, the memories attached to things we have saved or collected, and the nest we build as a safe haven from the world. Losing that haven is like having a layer of yourself ripped away, and I have watched with sadness and dismay how saddened and displaced my daughter felt when she lost her home. It’s like being a turtle without a shell. And we question ourselves for being attached to material objects, a favorite chair, a dress we loved that something important happened to you when you were wearing, photographs of beloved people that can’t be replaced, and it hurts to lose the things we love. Right or wrong, a piece of our identity is wrapped up in those things, and it is hard to lose any of that. I know that time will heal the wounds, but it was a catastrophic event for so many. And to reassure those of you who asked about my daughter, she is okay. I’m sure it is a time in her life that she will never forget, but she is grateful to be alive. As bad as it was, it could have been worse, and has been for many people, particularly those who lost loved ones. But thank you with all my heart for asking about my daughter and sending good wishes. We truly appreciate it, and I have passed your kind thoughts on to her.
After my initial stay in New York for nearly two weeks with her, I went back to California for Thanksgiving with many of my kids (not all, since the married ones go to their in laws (half of my kids now, 4 out of 8), in order to be home with us for Christmas), and it was a grateful time. The daughter who lost her home in the hurricane came home, still looking shaken by what she’d been through, but I think happy to be home for a few days, where nothing was gone, and nothing had changed. It was a constant she could come home to, to the arms of people who love her. (We stupidly watched the insurance video during the weekend, taken the morning after Sandy hit, and it nearly broke my heart at what we saw, the total jumble of debris strewn everywhere in what had been her impeccable home before. (We all cried).
And at the end of the weekend, we went back to New York, and I went with her to help her move into a temporary apartment—–far from the river’s edge!!! Moving into a temporary furnished apartment seemed sensible for a while, and we were lucky to find one, and happy that we did. I was happy, that she would have even a temporary home, I think she was numb. And there were good moments and bad ones. My heart sank as the movers arrived with the little she had been able to save. They arrived with plates, glasses, and some books. And that was it. I think seeing all that was missing made the loss even more acute. I wanted to cry for her (again), knowing how sad she was. You couldn’t help but look around and think of all that was no longer there. But I guess that’s what life does to all of us. (And it’s what I write about). Sometimes it knocks us flat on our ass, knocks the wind out of us, and totally flattens us, and who we are is about how we meet the challenge. No matter how difficult it is, you have to get up again. But no question, there were some tough and heart rending moments during the move. One of my other daughters had given her some furniture, I sent some from California, we had what came with the furnished apartment, and then we bought things like a vacuum cleaner, an ironing board, pots and pans, toaster, microwave, all the stuff we take for granted but is part of daily life.
And as I made my way around New York, gathering what she needed, the full spectrum of human behaviour was on display. Everyplace I went were other people who had been flooded out and lost everything, some with much worse experiences than ours, or hers. I met one incredibly nice young man, working in a store, who is currently living on a friend’s couch, and has been for a month. Thirty feet of water hit the building where he lives, a generator blew up and spread gas everywhere, into all the apartments, and the police won’t even let tenants into the building for another four months, because it’s too dangerous, but he already knows he lost everything, and his parents lost their home on Long Island. There were endless stories, and lots of brave people making the best of it. All of the buildings in my daughter’s street are shut down, too badly damaged to be inhabited until they are repaired. Downtown Manhattan is struggling to its feet, but has a long, long way to go, with millions of dollars of damage to be repaired, by individuals, as well as the city. The lower part of Manhattan still looked like a war zone when I got back, and will for a long time. Like any kind of shocking event, people are left feeling vulnerable and no longer safe. When the worst happens, you know that bad things can happen to you, and you never feel quite as safe again.
There are kind people and not so kind people dealing with the hurricane victims. Countless people who will do anything they can to help. Others who see it as an opportunity to take advantage of people who are sorely in need, and that’s not pretty to watch. Some stores are offering discounts to flood victims, donations are being made. And in other cases, landlords with apartments to rent are raising the rents (instead of lowering them), knowing how desperate people are. A catastrophic event brings out the best in some people, and the worst in others.
The memory of Hurricane Sandy will fade, particularly in the public mind. It will remain vivid for those who lived it, and hopefully the pain and shock will dim and ease in time. Going through something as awful and shocking as that teaches you something about yourself, what you care about, what truly matters to you, what you can do without, how you feel about your fellow man, and how tiny we are in the face of the forces of nature, and how little we can control at times, or nothing at all. It teaches you to be resilient, to be strong, how much you can endure, and where your limits of tolerance are for loss and pain. You learn to be strong when you have no other choice. I saw a lot of strong, brave, resilient people in New York, and met a lot of kind ones in the days and weeks after the hurricane. And to all of you who reached out to my daughter, and to me, for all your kindness and compassion, heartfelt thanks, from the bottom of my heart.