Hi everyone! Liz is here with a wonderful and fitting guest post. I really don’t have anything to add to this, other than Liz is awesome, and I’m really glad she and her family and friends are ok. <3
This spring, my husband and I purchased a second home on a lagoon off the bay near Atlantic City, on the coast of New Jersey. Over the summer, my family and I enjoyed swimming in the lagoon and bay, fishing, and boating, as well as the Atlantic City Boardwalk and local beaches. It was idyllic and amazing, and it was like a mini vacation every weekend.
Then a few weeks ago, we got news that a hurricane was headed directly for the shore, and by all reports it would be worse than any hurricane before. We spent the weekend before it hit getting the house ready for the storm. We put our furniture up on tables, emptied the fridge, and turned off the power to prevent surges. Our town had an evacuation order for 4 p.m. We said goodbye to our neighbors, who were going to “stick it out” instead of evacuating. I remember looking out the back of the SUV as we pulled away from the house and wondering if our street – our house – would ever be the same.
We spent the next two days suspended in a frightening sort of limbo, as we wondered if our family, friends, and neighbors had made it safely through, and if our home was still standing. We felt completely helpless. We were safe in our inland home on the Jersey side of Philadelphia, and didn’t even lose power. We were so fortunate. Amazingly, incredibly fortunate.
My husband spent Monday night on his cell, answering texts from family and friends and keeping everyone updated. When the Hurricane was at its worst point and we were unable to help anyone, it was a terrible feeling. We stayed up that night until the high tide had reached its highest point and didn’t go any higher. Only when we knew that the flood waters were as high as they would go, and our family and friends were okay, did we go to bed, our hearts heavy and our minds still reeling. Just a foot higher, and my brother-in-law’s home would have flooded. My mother-in-law had water almost to her front door. Our neighbors had four feet of water in the garage of their two-story home, just inches away from coming into their house.
I know what many of you are thinking. Why didn’t they leave? And the truth is, I can’t answer that. For our neighbors and family members who stuck it out, I can only tell you that they told us later that they didn’t know it would get that bad. They hadn’t anticipated just how violent and destructive the storm was actually going to be as the water surged over the lagoons, submerging cars parked in the street, floating boats away from the homes and docks, and destroying so very much.
I grew up in Ohio. I’ve been in so many tornadoes that they don’t even worry me. Hear the siren? Head to the basement. A tornado is a terrifying, destructive force that moves quickly. But a hurricane? That’s a guest that stays far too long and causes unimaginable damage. You can’t possibly predict what a hurricane will do, and that’s what makes them so dangerous. People will wait and wait, saying that they’ve been through so many and nothing ever happened to them before. And that’s the problem. Familiarity breeds contempt. A newbie to hurricanes like myself finds them terrifying on a cellular level. I want to leave New Jersey and go back to safe Ohio. But people who have lived here for a long time or grew up here, are the ones that stayed behind, trusting the past hurricanes to be a good judge for Sandy. But they weren’t. And the sad, sad truth is that people died, homes and belongings were destroyed… because you just can’t fully predict what nature can do.
A few days ago, I went to see our home, which had to be completely gutted to remove the damage that four feet of bay water did to it. The streets of our shore town are cluttered with furniture, flooring, and debris, sometimes piled so high you can’t see the houses behind it. When I walked through the door and saw the walls missing, the flooring pulled up, and the kitchen entirely dismantled, I first expected to feel sad. The house has character. It’s survived forty-some years without ever having it’s walls cut apart by contractors, or it’s sink pulled out of the wall.
But I wasn’t sad. I was thankful. I’m thankful that the house itself still stands and our boat is still on the trailer in our yard. I’m thankful that my neighbors across the street found shelter in another neighbor’s two-story home to escape the flood waters. And I’m mostly thankful that my children, my husband, and my in-laws and their families are all safe, too. What I kept reminding myself as I surveyed the destruction around the shore town was that things can be replaced, but people can’t.
So during this time of thankfulness, I urge you to do what I’m going to do, and look around the dinner table and just be thankful.
And… well, because I’m me, and today is THE BIG GAME… and I think Liz will be okay with it…