The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is not limited to the damaged homes and amenities plastered all over the front pages of every newspaper. Behind every bit of destruction and needed reconstruction is a person—a person filled with anguish, fear and, often, bewilderment.
Life has a way of getting interrupted.
The photos show people with their heads in their hands, tears streaming down their faces. A sense of panic comes through, lifts itself right off the page.
Most of us got a little taste of it. We lost power for a day or two. Had to live by candlelight, watched the laundry pile up, had to sacrifice a refrigerator full of food. But by comparison to some of our New Jersey and New York brothers and sisters, a lot of us were awfully lucky.
We felt the effect of that sudden separation -- a feeling that what we know and are comfortable with is suddenly not there for us.
In extreme cases, like with what some coastal Americans are dealing with, I’d compare it to a death in the family.
The feeling is loaded with uncertainty and apprehension. In your mind, you are almost begging for things to simply go back to the way they were before.
The milder cases like I dealt with (no electrical power for two days) felt a lot like the last day of high school or the last game of a season in which the team was tight and pulled together often. As you drive home after events such as this, you realize how abrupt the separation has been from what you are used to, and often you are ill prepared for the next thing.
Isn’t it wild how natural events such as this suddenly jerk things into perspective? How petty so many of our little arguments and issues now seem. When these things happen and you’re reminded to count your blessings, it sometimes seems like divine intervention.
I have a friend who owns a boat, and he loves being on it, fishing from it, and even sleeping on it on weekends. His wife is much less enthusiastic about it, and they butt heads on this topic all the time. He told me of one event last summer that jolted both of them and lent a lot of perspective to this whole separation topic.
Evidently, they’d been arguing all day. There was no reason to hurry back, and he wanted to stay on the boat overnight and she wanted to go home.
“Why would she want to ruin such a great time?” he said. Their skin was bronzed beautifully from two days of this three-day holiday and he was finally beginning to relax--and she wanted to pack the car and go home.
Well, this time she wasn’t going to get her way. He took her bag and threw it into the cabin of the boat; did the same with his.
“We’re staying,” he said with finality.
Standing on the dock, she looked down at him in the boat and walked away. He watched her walk up the dock a few yards to a wooden bench, where she plopped down and stared at the lake.
He decided he would pull away and leave her sitting there for a few minutes so they could both cool off. He fired the engines and removed the bumpers and, for extra drama, he ramped up the rpm’s so that he’d zoom away from the floating dock.
In doing so, he neglected to look back. She had evidently stood when he first fired the engines, causing a massive wake. The dock swayed heavily, knocking her into the water. She’s an able swimmer, but she hit her head on the way in.
Fortunately, he finally looked back and was able to come right around to her aid. But his speedy return caused just as much wake coming back and the water was now all churned up. The boat was bobbing and listing, and she was gulping mouthfuls of water.
He cut the engines, tied the boat hurriedly, and jumped in after her. When he had her secure in his arm, the loosely tied boat was practically floating on top of them. By that time, some of the other boaters who also were docked had come to assist and the scene was secured.
She was conscious and OK.
Back on the dock, with towels wrapped around them, they sat speechless. He apologized for the millionth time and she just nodded, but the enormity of what could have happened was daunting.
Even today when he tells the story, he shudders. What if he hadn’t looked back? What if she’d been knocked unconscious? What if he had lost her--over a silly argument about a night on the boat?
How would he have handled the sudden separation that would change his life forever? And the lives of his children and his wife’s parents, etc., etc., etc.?
So I sat there by our fireplace on Halloween Eve, with candles all around the room like Dracula’s Castle, and I chuckled.
When I started to count my blessings, the first one was that I was able to chuckle. There were a lot of people that didn’t have the luxury of laughing at the moment.
My wife and sons were tucked under blankets, with the fireplace flames reflecting off their faces. The wind whipped wildly outside and the dog snored softly by my side.
I prayed for the strength of my less fortunate brothers and sisters whose homes were nothing more than rubble at the moment. I hoped that their insurance stood to replace their homes with fresh new opportunities and a morale boost after weathering the storm of so much sudden separation.
It will take real strength and durability to rebuild their lives when all they ever owned has burned to the ground or floated out to sea.
There are many opportunities to donate to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. As the holidays approach, please join me in putting them on your “give” lists.
Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.