I’ll start by saying we were lucky. Very lucky. Sandy blew through and took down trees, power lines, fences, and roofs, but our property sustained the whopping damage of one missing shingle. More importantly, my family and my friends were all safe. We didn’t have our house washed away in the floodwaters, or burned down in the aftermath fires—I still don’t know why all those houses in Breezy Point burned! We didn’t have people we know go missing, get injured…or worse.
We were lucky.
But we did lose power for 8.5 days. Now I can live without a lot of things. I can go without a hot shower every day. I can eat in restaurants for every meal—not really a hardship in my books. I can wash my clothes at the laundry mat if need be. And *gasp!* I can even go without my laptop if I have to. And I did.
When we lost power, we thought we’d be okay if we camped out in the basement near the propane fireplace. But let me tell you, propane fireplaces do not throw as much heat as I thought. We blew up air mattresses using the outlet in my truck (thank god for that thing!) and our family of four, plus the dog and two beta fish, all moved into the 800 square-foot basement.
Everything went well for the first few days. We had friends with power so we went to hang out at their house each day to eat, shower, charge our electronics, watch the news and let the kids play with their friends. They were very generous to have us over for such extended periods of time, for so many days in a row. Some days we were there for 6-8 hours! We would have been much worse off without them in our lives. I owe a huge thank you to Bob and Gina for their generosity during the black out and I probably owe you a nice meal out too! LOL.
Every night after dinner out somewhere, we’d drive back into our dark neighborhood and go home to our cold house. Every night I went to sleep hoping we wouldn’t be too chilly through the night and I’d secretly hope to wake up in the middle of the night to house full of light. Every morning, I woke a little more depressed and defeated at having to make it through another day of trying to stay warm, clean and fed. I don’t know how people did it in the old days.
Then it got really cold. And I got really worried.
Temperatures dipped into the 20s overnight. We weren’t sure if our gas fireplace was safe to run 24/7 and I couldn’t get a hold of our propane company to ask or to request a refill of our tank. I didn’t know how long the fuel would last us and I was scared we’d run out and then have nothing left to heat the basement with. I didn’t know how we would manage a few more days. Then I learned that ConEd estimated our power to be out another 7-10 days. I was not a happy camper and mentioned as much on Facebook with some very colorful language.
Well, little did I know that my venting on Facebook would become a blessing. A few minutes after my initial post, my hair stylist Melissa messaged me and offered us a generator to borrow from her parents who hadn’t lost power. I was so shocked! These people were basically strangers to us. We know their daughter but had never met them and they were going to give us their generator!
They gave my family heat. Their gift kept my children warm.
We drove 30 minutes to pick up the generator the following day. Afterwards we stopped in at a small hardware store to pick up space heaters so we could warm one bedroom in our house. While in the hardware store I got an interesting look at human behavior. We needed a gas can to be able to fuel our generator. The gentleman ahead of us had 3 cans and wanted to buy a fourth and was rather pissed off when he couldn’t because they’d disappeared from the shelves. The gentleman behind us has 3 cans and handed us 1 when he saw we had a need for it. How can two people behave so differently in the same situation?
I couldn’t say thank you enough to the nice man who gave us one of his gas cans. Such a small thing, but it was really big in our world at that moment. His generosity allowed us to be able to fuel our new borrowed generator. Without it, the generator was useless.
We were not the only ones without power. A friend of mine also lost power for the same amount of time. But she didn’t let a little thing like that stand in her way of going to the shelter every night to volunteer. Every single night, she was there helping people without power stay warm, fed and cared for even when she didn’t have power herself. Janet, girlfriend, you are nothing short of amazing. I was unbelievably moved by your selflessness during the storm and the black out that followed.
On Day 9 with no power, I had just taken the kids to the local fitness center to have a warm shower and get cleaned up. When we drove back into the neighborhood, I was overwhelmed to see a fleet of power trucks just getting started. But they weren’t ConEd. The name on the side of the truck was Alliant Energy and their plates were from Wisconsin. When I asked if power was being resorted to our neighborhood and was told yes by one of the workers, I started to cry. I could barely squeak out a thank you, a teary smile, and a thumbs up before driving home. I’ve never been so happy to see a power truck! And they came from halfway across the country to help us. I was incredibly touched at their generosity. They left their families to come and help get us back on the grid. I hope they know how much that meant to my family, to my neighborhood and to my community.
So what lessons did I learn from Sandy?
1. Sometimes the smallest act of kindness can have a big impact.
2. Not everyone looks out for strangers or even their neighbors. Others will give you the shirt off their back.
3. Some people will surprise you with how well they handle adversity and even thrive in spite of it.
4. I am stronger than I thought I was in some ways, and weaker in others.
5. I would really suck as a contestant on Survivor. I’d make it like half a day and then I’d get pulled from the show.
6. If my family is cold, I can refill the tank and pull-start a generator. I have never pull-started anything. Ever. I may have fist pumped the cold night sky when I learned I could do that.
7. I need to live on the grid. I really, really need the grid.
8. The most important thing in my life is my family and friends. It is not my house, or my possessions, my book’s sales rank, the blog post I need to write, or being behind on my word count.
9. I will never be unprepared again. I bought my own generator, have 2 gas cans for fuel and bought a small long-term food supply and easy-to-use, portable stove with fuel. If anything happens, I can feed my family and keep my home warm. I also learned to shoot a bow and arrow (I can hit a bulls eye at 20 yards!) and I carry emergency bags in my car with essentials at all times.
10. Be prepared. Because you just never know.