Sunday, November 4, 2012
Staten Island And Sandy
When I was a kid, every so often, a TV character mentioned my hometown, Staten Island. Lucy and Ethel had ridden the Staten Island Ferry to see if they'd get seasick in preparation for Ricky's European Ship Tour. On an "All In The Family" episode, we all cheered in my house when Archie Bunker mentioned the words "Staten Island." More recently, there was the MTV show "I'm A Staten Island Girl," and of course Staten Island is the setting for many of the episodes of "Big Ang." Now I fear that Staten Island will forever only be remembered for the devastating events of Monday night's Hurricane Sandy.
On Monday night, many people had to be evacuated from their homes because their homes were by the water, and the tides were expected to overtake and destroy their homes, in some instances even lifting them right off of the foundation. Our house is not located in that "Zone A" area, so after losing our power Monday afternoon, we sat in our living room that evening with the portable radio on, playing round after round of Crazy 8's cards, sitting on what we felt was the safest corner of the couch, away from the windows, trying to ignore the howling wind and rattling tree branches, my husband and I exchanging worried glances as my daughter blissfully ignored the storm yet wore her helmet. We knew that there were probably only two dangerous trees in our yard, one is actually our neighbor's tree. When we went to sleep that night, I slept in my daughter's bedroom on her floor, because I knew her room was safely far away from both of those trees. My husband braved the master bedroom because he calculated that the tree was more likely to fall into the corner of his music room rather than into our bedroom, so he would most likely be okay.
Tuesday morning, we woke up and were grateful that none of our trees had fallen down. We spent the next five days and four nights without electricity and heat, each night getting colder than the next. We moved to the rooms where the temperature didn't go below 60 degrees, and eventually I shared a bed with my daughter just to keep her warm with my body heat. With no refrigerator, I kept her juice boxes outside to keep them cold along with the bottles of Carnation Instant Breakfast I'd gotten her since she couldn't have her hard boiled eggs in the morning. I always thought that if I ever lost electricity for more than a few days, the hardest part would be not being able to watch TV, and even though I was eating cans of tuna every morning to keep my protein up, that wasn't the hardest part. The hardest part for me, definitely, was feeling cold all the time. We were able to warm up for part of the day at my mom's boyfriend's house. We also charged our cell phones there and my daughter's portable DVD player so she could watch a half hour of her kid's shows before bed each night. But we didn't want to sleep there because he already had his daughter and his two grandsons staying with him, since their house also didn't have power, so we didn't want to impose unless we absolutely had to, so we stuck it out in our rapidly-dropping 60 degree house.
On Friday morning, we went to Stop and Shop. We couldn't drive around much because there were two-hour long lines at the only two gas stations that still had power on Staten Island. At Stop and Shop, every one looked like they hadn't been warm or had power for four days also. The women came in with ponytails, wearing layers of clothes, stocking their shopping carts with more batteries and with foods that didn't have to be refrigerated. As I shopped, I overheard one of the Stop and Shop employees telling someone that every day, more and more people who had lost their homes and were currently living in evacuation centers were coming in to shop. That snapped some sense into me. Sure, we were cold and eating tuna fish, and the adults drinking unrefrigerated milk (which I never realized was okay to do as long as it didn't smell sour and was not beyond the expiration date!), but these people had lost their homes! Not to mention the stories we heard on the radio of people who had lost their lives! I thought of my friend's dad, who thankfully survived the storm, but had to be rescued because the water was up to his chest in his house! I thought of how my daughter's godfather was coming to Staten Island from Pennsylvania with clothes, batteries, gas, food, and supplies for those who needed them, as his own brother and cousin were now without homes also. My husband took the picture I've used for this blog of the street where we used to hang out with dear friends of ours who have since moved to England. If they had stayed, they would have been evacuated and come back to find sailboats in their front yard and peeking into the windows of their house. These are stories of people who have really suffered during the storm.
Our power did come back on Saturday, the day after I went to Stop and Shop. We were very thankful, and we continue to pray for those less fortunate. Staten Island will never be the same. There is more help to give and more of the word to spread. Yet someday, I hope Staten Island will once again be remembered as the quirky borough which is part of New York City but doesn't seem to be. The one mentioned by Lucy and Archie Bunker and in True Life episodes of MTV. Not as the borough which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy.