Nov 172012

I have been away for a little bit. Most of my absence was due to Hurricane Sandy. Well, now that I think about it, all of my absence was due to Hurricane Sandy. I have learned quite a lesson from this “little” hurricane. I have learned that truly all things can change in an instant and there is no guarantee that things will ever be the same after they have been changed. Indeed there are no guarantees in life.

The hurricane began for me on the night that it “hit” on Monday, October 29th, 2012. That day before the storm, I was programming my new website project that I’ve recently started developing. All day my friends had been texting (as in cell phone SMS Messaging) me telling me that I was crazy for not evacuating. With also the news and the state of New York telling me to evacuate along with the dreary and evil-portending skies, I was getting a bit nervous. It’s slightly more of a challenge to work with strained nerves.

I live on the south shore of Long Island. If a major hurricane were to hit, I would most certainly be under water. If a cataclysmic hurricane hit, I would be dead likely. However, the last hurricane that hit, Hurricane Irene, was also supposed to be bad. The news also had told all residents on the south shore to evacuate for Hurricane Irene as well. However, Hurricane Irene proved to be much unlike the news said it would be. Now I realize that I was fortunate that it was not as devastating, as predicted. In either case, this time I had decided against evacuating.

The first taste of Hurricane Sandy came about during the early hours of 7 AM, which was the first high tide. The “storm surge” had brought the waters up out of the channels and the bays and brought them closer to people’s homes. I received pictures from my family who live closer to the bay in the same town. The first high tide was exactly the same as Hurricane Irene’s worst. The waters receded before they became worse, but this was only the first high tide. The second high tide would occur at 7 PM, which would be during the height of the storm.

As the weather-people predicted, the when 6 PM approached the winds started blowing and the rain came down. Hurricane Sandy had started. Not much time had passed since then that the electricity had failed. Candles, flash-lights, and cell phones were then all that I had left to keep myself occupied. I ventured outside a few times to see if the flood waters had reached my street. From the reports of Facebook and text messages from my family I knew that the rest of my town was under water, but were nowhere to be seen for me.

Around 8 PM the winds had blown some stuff of of my roof and continued to ravage the town, but I had yet to see any flood waters. Suddenly, I lost a carrier signal on my cell phone and was unable to reach anybody. In the dark, with the sounds of the winds and rain beating against my windows I did what anybody else would do. I prayed.

Around 8:30 PM I had not seen any sign of water coming down my block. By that point I figured that the waters brought about from high tide would be receding so I decided that I would sleep through the remainder of the hurricane. Outside my window people were playing musical cars trying to find parking on my street. I laid in bed and closed my eyes.

I awoke the next morning at 7 AM. The hurricane was over. Outside it was still overcast. Electricity was still a no-show and my cell phone still refused to function properly. I ventured out into my town and took a drive around. Trees and debris litter the streets. The flood waters still blocked off most parts of the town. People were outside wandering around with blank expressions wondering what had happened to them and in their homes. The curbs in front of these homes began filling up with wet furniture and carpets.

With not many places to go because of the streets being blocked off, I decided to return home. It wasn’t until later that my family appeared at my back door in tears telling of how the flood waters had put the first floor of the house under water. Out of my own curiosity, I took a walk around to see what other damage had come upon my town. This time I saw much more.

Boats lay across the street a block from my house in parking lots. People walked the streets in a daze. There were rumours of looting, gas shortages, and no electricity for most of the areas in Long Island. However, rumours were all people had. Cell phones would simply not be able to make any calls. At the height of the storm the night before, every block in my town had been flooded and every home shared the same story. Somehow, my small block was safe.

The first night after the storm was cold and dark. There was not much to do and there was nobody to call. I could not let anybody know I was okay. I could not ask any of my friends if they were okay. I had an incredible story to tell already, but nobody could listen. Again, I decided to go to sleep early.

On the third day, I helped my family clean out their house. Everybody in the town was doing the same thing. The curb-side garbage piles only grew and grew. The rumours of looting and gas shortages grew worse. Tension in the hearts of the town’s people rose. The military started patrolling the streets and there were also rumours of FEMA and other organizations bringing food. People who said they had spoken with the local electric company said that restored power was a fairytale and it would be a miracle if people would be able to have lights for Christmas. But none of these rumours could be confirmed.

I was able to get in touch with briefly a friend of mine who was hosting a few families who were closer to the storm at his house. Being more inland, he had not experienced any flooding, but he was also without power and travelled to a shelter to charge his cell phone. I decided then that there was no need to stick around any longer.

With no fuel for my car, any means to contact people, any light or electricity to occupy myself, or heat to warm myself I made the decision to go find greener pastures. My Aunt and Uncle had invited me to stay in their house more north in New York until the “dust settled.” The traffic lights were out all around me and there was no way of telling how bad the roads were or how easy my trip would be, but that was a risk I wanted to take. I had saved just enough gas in my car to make the journey.

I grabbed a few of my cousins and started the drive. About an hour into the trip I finally received a signal connexion on my cell phone and received a backlog of a ton of text messages asking me if I was okay. Finally I was able to tell people that I was okay and ask if others were okay. My town had just been a dead zone for cell phones.

I spent the rest of the two weeks until power was restored to my town in my greener pastures. I had travelled back briefly the week prior delivering some gas to friends and family, but the nights I spent back in this town were less than comfortable. There were police checkpoints and the army roamed the streets. There was a curfew enforced for the night and all of the people here were wet and starved. Government based and other organizations handed out food and the people here continued to live without gas, heat, power, and everything else that came with it. However, I was unable to sleep much in the cold and the sound of helicopters patrolling the air. The house would light up periodically with the spotlights of the nightly patrols bleeding through the windows.

In retrospect, evacuating before the storm would have been the lesser of all of these evils. There are many more stories exposing more of the inner-dysfunctions that I deal with daily inward and outward, but those stories will be for another article. I have learned a great deal during this storm about myself even. Again, this just teaches me that character-building really only comes from hardship. I should learn to be more grateful for hardship.

For an audio recap of this story, please check out Dat’s Bananas! Podcast Episode 10.

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