About A Hurricane

I could tell you that we lived without power for seven days.

I could tell you that when we lost use of our furnace due to
the power outage, it got cold in my house. 
Very cold. 

I could tell you that we wore the same clothes over and over
again until they smelled because we had didn’t have a working washing machine
or dryer.

I could tell you that I ran a tiny car-powered generator for
the first seventy two hours, in an attempt to save our refrigerated food.  But that due to the gas shortage on the
Jersey Shore, I had to let most of the food spoil, except for a few essentials
that fit into a cooler.

I could tell you that I walked three blocks to a National
Guard command station set up at the end of our development, to get ice for that
cooler, which I wheeled home in a baby stroller, since I did not want to waste
gas to drive there.

I could tell you that I walked a mile to the police station
to charge my cell phone, kids in tow, who complained about the walking and
about the cold.

I could tell you that I screamed at my daughter when she
broke one of our flashlights, because I knew if I went to the store to try to
replace that flashlight, I would be unable to find a flashlight, and
furthermore, I did not want to waste the remaining gas in my car to try to find
another flashlight. 

I could tell you about waiting two hours to get gas for my
car, only to have the pumps freeze when I was next in line.  

I could tell you about how tired to the bone I felt by the
end of each day, managing three cold, scared, stir crazy kids, as a single mom.

But in the end, all of these are temporary and minor
inconveniences, compared to this.



This is the borough of Union Beach New Jersey, with a
population of 6,200, which sits on the Raritan Bay waterfront.  Virtually every house in town sustained
significant damage from Hurricane Sandy, if it was not completely

I would sleep in the cold again, for seven days, ten days,
one hundred days, if it would allow for the residents of Union Beach to have
their town back.  

I would leave all of my food out on the counter on purpose and
let it spoil, if it would rebuild even one of those houses for someone who is
now homeless.  

I would break every flashlight in my house and let my cell
phone battery die and wait on another two hour gas line to recover the photos,
the love letters, the school art projects, that were destroyed by the tide that
rose as high as the second story windows and washed valuables out to sea.  

Because even though I have my power and my internet back and
the use of my washing machine again, and life seems pretty “back to normal” in
my house, Union Beach will never be “back to normal,”  or at least not for a very long time.  

We can look at the tragedy of someone else or somewhere else
and gawk from afar, and say a silent prayer that we are thankful it was not us. 

Or, we can take the opportunity to understand fully that
someone else’s tragedy really is our tragedy.

Those homes that were destroyed in Union Beach and in Sea
Bright and in Seaside Heights and in Rockaway were not someone else’s homes.

That was my home.

That was your home.

Because ultimately, we are all connected.  

Make a pledge to help after your lights come back on.

Make a pledge to help after the media hype dies down.

Make a pledge to help long after everyone else has

Make a pledge to help beyond a case of canned goods or diapers
that you drop off at a shelter, to wipe your conscious clean, feeling relieved that
you have “done your part.”

Because “doing your part” is not one isolated act.  “Doing your part” is a life’s mission.

Om Shanti




About A Hurricane — 36 Comments

  1. You know I would have said it in a slightly more literal way but you said it in a tremendously more beautiful way! As usual! “Ruin is the road to transformation.” May we all be transformed by this experience and use it to guide us to a place of more generosity and empathy everyday, instead of just on a very bad day.

  2. Beautifully said. We are lucky that Maine didn’t get a direct hit, but those devastated towns could have just as easily been ours. Or anyone’s. Puts things into perspective. I’m so glad to hear you have your power back and that things are a bit more normal for you!

  3. Our power just came back tonight, too. And that is the first thing I’m thinking about: how can I pay it forward? Because tonight, especially with the promised nor’easter coming in, and my mom still here with her injury, I am feeling blessed.

  4. I’m so glad you have the power back. We have watched the videos and have cried over the devestation in the hard hit areas. A friend of mine just posted a thought online, and I think it so appropriate to share:
    Be thankful for the bad things in life for they opened your eyes to the good things you weren’t paying attention to before.
    Blessings and prayers to you and all effected people, Ilene. <3

  5. A beautiful post Ilene. It’s simplicity strengthened by a deep resolve to encourage others to make a commitment to help is just the tip of the iceberg. I had such a hard time writing my own thoughts about Sandy and I felt awkward doing so because it seemed a shame to focus so much on what I went through when I was okay. But now that my initial impressions are out and on the page, I feel like I can take a step forward to help in any way I can. I’m so glad you and yours are okay and that there was no significant damage in your area. This “back to normal” thing is weird for me too, but what I’m taking away from this whole experience is that we all have the power to make personal changes that can ripple out and affect those around us. Thanks Ilene for sharing and thanks to everyone out there whose blessings, prayers, volunteer efforts, donations, and aid are helping get people back on their feet. 🙂

  6. The devastation of a single natural disaster is so hard to comprehend. I am glad you and your family are safe, and yes, I am glad you have your electricity again. I totally laud your sentiment – if my going without something would give back to those who have lost in this flood, I’d do it, no question, and because this type of loss makes nearly everything else seem inconsequential. But. Doing without those things would not fix the problems, and I think your second point, ‘let us not forget’, is the one I can do the most with in my own life. I live far away from the devastation. But my heart breaks for everyone affected, and yes, I will pledge to help for my whole life.

  7. Thank you, Kim! The devastation is around my corner. Literally. It’s so close – and such a huge wake up call. But yes, I love your quote about being thankful for the bad things – so much gratitude has come from this situation and I am taking my pledge not to forget seriously. xo

  8. Thank you for your thoughts, Maribel! I am still processing what has actually happened. I literally live around the corner from massive devastation. Union Beach NJ is my back yard. When it hits so close to home, it’s personal, but personal is not a bad thing, since it has propelled me to make a resolve. I 100% agree with you that we can make little changes that have a ripple effect! We can all leave a positive footprint in light of this devastation. xo

  9. I will not forget. Thank you for this eloquent, gut-wrenching reminder. I’m relieved to hear you and your family are safe and with power again. Here’s to all of us being connected through good and impossible times. xoxo

  10. Thank you Jessie. I am in this for life, too. If not aiding with the hurricane, this was my personal wake up call to be more service minded period. And to use my blog to relay such messages. And I pledge to make this a life’s mission versus a one off. It’s so cool that you are on the same page!

  11. My heart breaks. I’m a native New Yorker who knows that so many have lost so much, that the inconveniences you speak of are horrible to experience, but not nearly as treacherous as what so many have gone through. So much loss. So hard. I send you love and strength, and I send it in ten-fold to those of these neighborhoods that have been wiped, washed and blown away. Hugs.

  12. Perspective is so important in times like these. By comparison to so many, my own hurricane story is so insignificant. I can’t imagine those whose lives will never ever be the same. Thank you for the perspective and the reminder.

  13. Beautiful. My sister-in-law’s town in Staten Island has been devastated. My nieces lost friends. Some of those friends voiced on Facebook just how scared they were minutes before their homes were taken. It’s been hard, but they will persevere. We will persevere. Power is back in several places and many are able to get gas. Those that lost homes are now starting to receive items donated by those that have to give. It’s a trying time, and difficult to watch loved ones suffer from a distance. Thanks for the reminder.

  14. This was really powerful. In California we can’t even fathom what you all are going through. Thank you for shaking me up a bit. Prayers for all of you who have suffered!

  15. Thank you, Tricia. It’s strange, but I think a lot of us where I live almost have “survivor’s guilt” because we are close. So close. Blocks away from the town I discuss. At the least, I have pledged to help them in the long haul and stop my own complaining over the minor inconveniences.

  16. You have been on my mind the past few days and I was going to contact to you too how your SI family fared. I am so sorry to hear that their town was hit so hard and so tragically! The magnitude of this storm is astronomical and the after affects will go on for years. I am mulling over a few ways to help long term. I feel fortunate yet so sad at the same time! Sending love to you and your family.

  17. It is all just so overwhelming. I couldn’t even try to stop the tears as I read this and watched the video. We lost power for several days but we have a fireplace that kept the house at 52 degrees and we had a generator that kept our sump pumps running to keep the water out of our basement and the food in our fridge safe. We said thank you for every bit of comfort we had while others were suffering. We took not one bit of it for granted and we are doing our part to help those that were not as lucky as we are. You got the word out beautifully that we can all do more to help! xo!!

  18. So beautifully written. My heart goes out to all of you who have suffered from the hurricane. Post such as this shake us up a bit to appreciate our ‘comfort zone’.

  19. Just catching up with all of your posts and I’m so glad that you and your family are ok. I know it was not an easy time, but like you said it could have been worse. I think it’s really hard for anyone who isn’t there to fully grasp what it’s like or how everyone is feeling. you are doing a great job of showing that

  20. {Melinda} Our community was nearly completely destroyed by Hurricane Charley in 2004. I am so sorry for what you and your neighbors in closeby communities and states are going through. It is truly a shaking of everything you hold dear. I am still a more grateful person because of the experience we had 8 years ago. I try to take nothing for granted. Glad you are safe.

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