Strange Days- Hurricane Sandy + Updates

Sandy

As many of you already know, a week ago Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast of the United States pretty hard and left a lot of destruction in it’s wake. Now that things are slowly starting to get back to normal, I wanted to take a little time to reflect on what happened and explain what I’ve been up to the last few days (warning: this post is about to get long and rambly, as I try to sort out all of my thoughts and feelings).

Sunday 10/28: My roommate and I spent the morning and afternoon cleaning up after the Halloween party we threw the night before and we’re pretty tired. I’d been following along online for updates about Sandy and we thought about going out to buy a few more provisions, but we had a lot of food and drinks left over from the party, so we figured we’d be ok. Honestly, at this point I wasn’t really concerned. In fact, when I found out that work was cancelled on Monday in anticipation of the storm, I was thrilled! I’d had a pretty full weekend and it would be great to have an extra day just to relax.

Monday 10/29: Since one of our friends lived in Zone A, a mandatory evacuation zone, we invited him over to our place to come weather the storm with us. It was fun having a friend stay over and it felt a little bit like an impromptu slumber party. Tucked away in our little apartment, we still weren’t really worried. I mean, there was a lot of wind and some rain, but from the inside it didn’t seem too bad at all. We went about our day as usual (aside from the fact that we didn’t have work), cooked up some dinner, and prepared to watch a movie together. And then the power went out.

Tuesday 10/30-Friday 11/2: For about five days, we didn’t have heat, power, or cell reception in my apartment. When the power first went out, I kind of thought that it was temporary- that the power would come back on in a few hours, tops. Then we heard that a major power station nearby had exploded during the storm and that power wouldn’t be coming back for 3-4 days.

To say that I was totally unprepared for this was an understatement. Growing up in California, I’ve never experienced anything even close to a hurricane and I had a hard time taking the reports seriously. It wasn’t until I was sitting in dark, listening to the storm rage outside, that I thought, “Oh, this is a big deal.

By Wednesday, I realized I needed to venture outside and find cell service so that I could let my parents and family know that I was ok. Since they hadn’t heard from me in two days, they were definitely a little bit worried and relieved to hear from me. I also got back to all of my friends who had texted to ask if we were ok or to offer up their apartments if we needed a place to crash until power was restored. I was so touched by all of the people who called or sent a message to make sure we were ok and by the kindness of friends who offered up their already crowded apartments.

My roommate and I decided to go to a friend’s place to charge up our electronics and see if we could scout out some food. With the public transportation shut down and finding it extremely difficult to hail a taxi, we had to walk there (about an hour each way). We picked up some non-perishables at Duane Reade uptown and then I headed back downtown to my apartment by myself.

The best word to describe what it was like walking through a completely dark Manhattan at 5:30pm in the afternoon is strange. I mean, it was absolutely bizarre. I kept wondering to myself, “Is this for real? Is this really happening right now?” Basically, every building below 34th street was without power. This meant that when the sun set around 5pm that day, the lower part of the city was pitch black. I’m going to be honest- making that long walk home by myself, I was scared. I’m sure you’ve all heard of New York as the city that never sleeps and it’s true. Even in the middle of the night, buildings are lit up, there are cars whizzing by, and lots of activity on the streets. But not this week. To see lower Manhattan all dark felt wrong. It was all wrong.

I spent that night in my apartment alone and it was eerie. I was hyper-aware of every little sound and walked around my apartment cautiously and slowly, expecting something to jump out at me at any moment. When I remembered that it was Halloween that night, the whole situation felt even more strange. I imagined other people in other states, dressing up and celebrating Halloween as normal.

On Friday, my roommate heard that they were giving out food and supplies in Alphabet City, so we decided to walk over to the location and check it out. When we got there, volunteers were handing out food in an abandoned lot and the line wrapped around the fence and down the block. We decided not to stay because it was all very overwhelming and it seemed like the wait would have been several hours, but I still have the image of all the tired faces standing in that line in my mind.

We then headed uptown, searching for any place where we could charge our phones and computers. We finally stumbled into a Staples uptown, where we saw people huddled over surge protectors, waiting for their electronics to charge. My roommate was really worried that the employees at Staples wouldn’t want us to be in there siphoning their electricity, but it was clear that these were extenuating circumstances and no one in Staples seemed to mind that we weren’t there to buy anything. Waiting for our devices to charge gave us time to catch up on the latest Sandy updates and we saw an article that power might be restored to our area as soon as that night, or by the next day at the latest. We didn’t want to get our hopes up, but we were both secretly hoping and wishing that the power would come back that night.

When we finally made it back to our apartment, we were tired from our jaunt uptown, but happy to have our phones with more than 3% battery and snacks to last a couple more days. We lit our candles and huddled under our comforters, prepared for another cold, strange night in our apartment. I was flipping on to the next page of my book, when suddenly I heard a beep. “What could that be?” I thought to myself. And then in the next instant I realized- it was the microwave!

I jumped out of my bed, rushed over to my light switch, and flipped it up. And happy happy joy joy, the power was back! Which of course led to me running through the apartment, turning on all the lights and simultaneously yelling, “THE POWER IS ON!” I called my parents and updated twitter so that everyone would know that I could be reached again.

Saturday 11/3- Sunday 11/4: The last few days for me have been about trying to get my life back to normal. Of course, having the power restored didn’t magically fix all of the city’s problems, but it certainly helped a great deal. Around the city, you can see signs of people trying to get things back in order.

One big thing that struck me throughout this whole experience was how the people of New York City banded together during this natural disaster. Restaurants gave away free food. Many stores let anyone and everyone come in to borrow power and charge their electronics. People shared taxis. Volunteers gave out food and supplies to those in need. It was really amazing to see the city pull together to face the destruction of Sandy.

When something’s happening on the other side of the country or a few states away, it’s hard to feel affected because of the distance. But when something happens to your city, to your home, you definitely feel it. It was so strange when I was able to reconnect and see other’s Facebook updates and Instagram pictures of life as normal, as if nothing had happened. And then I realized, nothing had happened to them. I’m not begrudging anyone at all for continuing to live their lives, just observing how two people can be in completely different situations.

Even though my life is starting to get back on track, it’s important for me to remember that lots of people are still suffering from the effects of Sandy. Many many people are still huddling in the dark in their homes and some people lost their lives during Sandy. I want to encourage anyone who can spare a little money to donate to the disaster relief efforts of the Red Cross to help Sandy victims. You can do so by going to their website here or texting REDCROSS to the number 90999.

For those who made it all the way to the end of this post, thank you so very much for reading. To all the people who called, tweeted, messaged me to make sure I was ok, thank you from the bottom of my heart. These have been very strange days, but I know that over time things will return to normal. My posts will eventually return to normal, although first I had to update you guys and share what was on my mind. I’m grateful that I’m ok and that all my friends and family also made it out of the storm ok. I’m grateful that things weren’t any worse in my neighborhood. And I’m grateful for all the support NYC is receiving from concerned citizens all around the world.

I hope all of you out there are safe and sound and well.
xx Nnenna