When I left for college in 1984, I swore I would never go back. I wasn't happy on Long
Island. Everyone was cramped into a small space, I grew up in "the projects" and I really wanted to be in a place that had space, had mountains, had elbow room. Wide open spaces, room to make my own mistakes, as it were.
I went to college North of Boston, in a place with lots of elbow room. I met and married my husband in college, who grew up in a place with lots of elbow room. I went on trips to places with mountains and plains and big wide rivers. I knew I would never go back to apartment buildings, mass transit nightmares, pushing and shoving, New York.
When we got married, we lived in a couple of towns where the elbow room was lacking, one very affluent town and one rather not so bright and shiny city. Eventually landed in super small town spaciousness up near the Merrimack River. And I have enjoyed making this town my town.
My visits to Long Island are few and far between. My sister and her husband still live there. My parents moved up to Cape Cod several years ago, so a lot of times holidays take place there, or here, and rarely at my sister's because to be honest, it is an epic and horrifying pain in the ass to go to Long Island.
9/11 happened, and it made me suddenly incredibly proud to be a New Yorker. I had walked away from the crowds and the insanity of city and "Island" life. But all of a sudden I realized watching what was going on there that this was really a part of me, a part of my heart and soul. Remembering being at the top of the World Trade Center, the Twin Towers, so many times... Remembering taking Doug there, the boy from Wide Open Spaces USA, for the first time. He'd never seen an Hasidic Jew. It blew his mind.
I realized that my bluntness, my sarcasm and my sometimes too big a heart all come from growing up there. It made me who I am. And the smile of being proud that the people there who never walked away from the City, but loved it and stayed there and took care of it were taking care of each other.
Fast forward 11 or so years to this week, and Hurricane Sandy.
Knowing that we all make fun of the storm alerts and the 24/7 news cycle and the "French Toast Warnings," I thought why the heck are they making such a big fuss over a Category 1 hurricane. It'll be like any other wind and rain storm that we get here all the time. Panties were in a bunch everywhere. And I felt relatively calm and assured when I realized the storm was going to take a left turn before making it to my house.
As everyone knows, it beat the shit out of lower Manhattan, Long Island, the Connecticut Shore, the Jersey Shore and Staten Island. Really beat the shit out of it. Like none of us even imagined.
And now I'm sitting up here in the north country, in the wide open spaces, watching Facebook updates from friends who still don't have power, friends who have run out of gas and fresh water because they either didn't plan or didn't take it seriously. I'm watching my sister and my friends waiting for things to get back to normal... each of them have their house standing and while food may be rotten and in the trash at least there is a roof overhead and the promise that it will all be okay.
A lot of people are not convinced that the chaos is as widespread as it is. But it is. When I look geographically at the location of each of my friends who are dealing with this, it stretches from the East End of Long Island up into northern New Jersey and down to the Shore, the entire shore, of that state. Friends in Maryland and Delaware are also recovering from this experience.
My friend Tracey wrote this on Facebook yesterday, and I asked her permission to share it here. I am watching from a distance as my friends are living in the middle of what is on the very edge of turning into Thunderdome.
Update Storm Sandy aftermath – Chaos transitions into anarchy on the quaint north shore of Long Island as gasoline shortages now pit one struggling human being against another. Police abandon intersections, where they have been stationed controlling traffic, to surround any gasoline locations that are lucky enough to have both electric (to pump) and petrol (in the tanks). Lines are miles long. We’re being told that the situation is being driven, primarily, by the inability of the big gasoline tanker trucks to actually get & transport the gasoline to the gas stations in order for the people to get it.
Cars that run out of gasoline while waiting in line are just abandoned and pushed off the road. People (in full blown panic) running up ahead of the line trying to fill random containers with gas, like Poland Springs water jugs, are restrained & explode with emotion. Businesses/homes that had been lucky enough to run on generators thus far, are going down like dominos – unable to power their generators with gasoline any longer. In this way… conditions, ever changing, continue to deteriorate in the wake of Storm Sandy - uncertainty becoming the only constant.
All of the gas stations are surrounded by yellow ‘do not cross’ police tape. You know who is pumping, from a distance, from the number of police cars with lights flashing that surround – and the mobs of people trying to get through the police lines.
There is not a D-cell battery ANYWHERE to be found, at this point. People who had been running their cars to look for supplies (batteries, ice, etc…) or to charge laptops/cellphones with car charges are no longer able to do so. The guy smiling at you in the hour+ long coffee line at the Dunkin' Donuts would kill you for the few gallons of gasoline in your car. He lies to you, with his eyes, when he pretends he’s not thinking exactly that.
Where will we go from here?
It sounds a little dramatic, a little hyperbolic, but really... it's not. And this is town by town by town across a several hundred mile long area.
Here's to hoping it gets better soon. And that no more weather arrives to pose further problems.