Images on television don’t prepare you

Images on television don’t prepare you

You had a very difficult day.  Nothing seemed to go your way.  You are tired, you are cranky, and you are stressed.  You are so looking forward to relaxing.  You want a break.  Scratch that.  You NEED a break! You put on some comfy clothes and perhaps grab a snack or maybe a glass of wine.  You sit yourself down on your couch remote control in hand.  You aim it at the television and let out a quiet sigh of relief.  Finally you are going to get the break you deserve.


Your favorite TV show is not on.  Instead every channel you select is featuring coverage of a tragic event – brush fire, school shooting, earthquake or hurricane.  You pause and watch.   You feel terrible for those affected.  You vow to make a contribution to help.  Maybe you end up doing it.  Maybe you don’t.  You sympathize with those affected and you feel like you understand their plight.  But do you?


I can tell you first hand, you don’t.  No matter how much you think you can relate to the heart ache and devastation you see on television you can’t until you lived through a catastrophe, like Hurricane Sandy. Trust me, I know…. And I hope that you never have to know….


Images on television don’t prepare you for how helpless you feel as you watch your brother-in-law’s home, the home you evacuated to, fill with over a foot of ocean and bay water within moments.  The images don’t prepare you for the panic and desperation your feel as you and your nieces help your sister-in-law elevate her antique chairs to try to protect them from the gushing water before you all move to another room to try to save her clothing that was on the bottom of her closet.  Keep in mind that all this is happening while the wall to wall carpet begins to sway in the waves.


Images on television don’t prepare you for the fear you feel as you and your husband get into your sister-in-law’s car, because his car was destroyed by the flood, to venture to your home to access your damages.  You know you will find major damages when you get there, but you don’t know how severe they will be, and you are afraid.  You pray that you will find your home where you left it.


As you drive you see images out of a television report.  You see down trees, missing roofs, pieces of boardwalk on people’s front lawn, and sand filling the streets.  While these images are similar to what you have seen previously on television from past catastrophes these images are different.  They are from your home town.   You know the people affected and your heart hurts.


Images on television don’t prepare you for the moment you arrive in front of your own home. If you are lucky your home is still standing.  Your breathe hitches in your throat as you slowly open your front door, fearful of what you will find inside.  And when you walk in you wish you could walk right out.  Ocean in your den…. Major flooding in your basement….. Loss of property… Structural damage…. The list goes on and on.


Images on television don’t prepare you for the emotions you feel as you find your friends and neighbors.  You are relieved to see they are physically alright.  You are heartbroken to see that their homes are just as devastated as is yours, or maybe even worse.  You hug each other.  You cry.  And sometimes you even find a reason to laugh.


Images on television stop after the major event is over.  It isn’t their fault. No one wants to see old news.  Images on television don’t show the aftermath…. 


No one knows how your days and nights are spent cleaning up and throwing out all your destroyed belongings, in the cold and the dark, as your basement ceiling collapses on your head.  You are covered in dirt, muck, and sometimes sewage.  You feel filthy, but you can’t bear to take a cold shower on a New York November day, so you don’t.   You forget the basic necessities; you forget to take your medicine and brush your teeth.  Day turns to night and back to day again. You lose track of the hours and the days as you try to help your neighbors and friends who are in the same or worse condition as you are.  You share necessities – flash lights, batteries, bottle water, garbage bags, and even a car.  And if someone miraculously has a cell phone that works, you share that too…


You realize who your friends really are, and you see people’s true colors.  Some shock you in a good way, some in a bad way.  Regardless, you know you will never forget these moments, although you really want to.


Weeks pass and life returns to normal that is for most people, but not you.  You are a person who was hit hard.  You may be staying with friends or you may be struggling to stay at home.  Regardless you still are struggling….  You feel a wide mix of emotions.  You are sad and angry that you have to endure this.  You are jealous that others are going about their life as normal.  But you are also thankful that you are okay, and you know that in the future, one day too your life will return to normal…. You just hope it happens soon.



70 thoughts on “Images on television don’t prepare you

  1. Oh Dear Hillary,

    I wish I was closer, I wish I could whisk you and your hubby up and take you away and when you return home, everything was a bad dream. You are right, there isn’t much news now. I don’t think it’s because it’s old news, I think it’s because it doesn’t help to keep replaying it, and showing photos and videos of the destruction that people along the shore are facing each day. You have so much strength, I don’t know how I would deal with this shitty hand you’ve been dealt. Do you need anything? Can I make you a care package and send it to you? do you need blankets or batteries or non perishables? What can I do to help you? xo

    1. Karen – thanks… You are already doing exactly what I need. You are being a wonderful friend who is making me smile…. I wish you could whisk me away and the four of us could hang and laugh and forget about all this for a while….It is funny, when this first happened I would wake up and slowly open my eyes hoping it was only a bad dream…. But it never was…. You are such a sweet and wonderful woman… big **hugs**

  2. I so hate what you are going through and we just feel so helpless knowing that our friends are going though so much. Gracie sends you snuggles and love.

    1. Brian – thanks so much. I hate that we are too, but I am so thankful that Alex didn’t have to… I can’t even imagine how he would have been able to deal… Give Gracie a big hug and snuggle from me!

  3. For some reason my comments keep disappearing. I just hate it that you and Marc are going through this and our hearts hurt for you. Gracie sends you snuggles, love and hugs.

  4. That sounds and I know it is awful. We are so sorry that you are going through this and only wish we could help you and Marc. You are doing a great job of being strong and glad that you wrote it all down. Hopefully things will get better little by little. You sure are in our thoughts and prayers all the time. Take care.

    1. Marg – I am glad I wrote it too.. I have been writing this post in my head for three weeks and it feels good to get my feelings out. It is an awful time, but I keep reminding myself how lucky we are… everything could have been worse

  5. Hilary, this was not how I was planning on starting my Saturday morning… crying while reading this. But then, you didn’t plan on spending the last few weeks dealing with this, did you? I may not understand the full brunt of this devastation but I can relate partially… the leaving your home, with your small children in tow, wondering what will happen and what you’ll find when you get back…
    We did contribute, to the red Cross and also to the relief effort put on by the kids’ school. The school community really got together and managed to fill an 18 wheeler to the hilt with supplies going to NY. Babies will have dry bottoms, someone will have a toothbrush and tooth paste, someone else warm feet… In the end, it still doesn’t feel like enough but other than me coming up there and helping you muck out (which is what I would have gladly done) this is all we can do from a distance! And send you good thoughts and virtual hugs and kisses!!!
    Knowing you guys, you will emerge better and stronger than before!!!! xoxo

    1. Susi – I love you…. You are right… I wasn’t planning on spending my last three weeks like this, but life is what happens when you make other plans. I can’t imagine how hard this is for people with children. One of our friend’s daughter’s has two small children (3 and 1) This is the second year in a row that the family had to leave their homes after destruction from a hurricane… It is wonderful that you and the kids donated… there are so many people that were hit so hard and I am sure your contributions made their lives more livable…

  6. What can I do to help? What can WE do to help? How about an Amazon wish list or a page on your blog of needed things? Do you have regular postal service yet?

    It’s NOT charity, don’t be proud, I/we want to help you and Marc in a concrete way.


    1. Trish – you are amazing… thank you! I appreciate more than words could say… But really we are good. Daily life has been a struggle, but we are fortunate that we have insurance and have resources to repair, rebuild and replace our destroyed items. Many people don’t…

      Now, if you would have asked me this same question a couple of days ago, when doing laundry was impossible I would have asked for socks!
      Love ya!

  7. Thanks for describing your experiences and giving me a window into how things are really going for regular folks different from my TV window.

    I was in the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989 but I certainly cannot compare my experience with yours. I and my close friends and family were not hurt nor was our property damaged much beyond things falling over but I did have that experience of seeing destruction of places I go to regularly.

    1. cathy – I am sorry that you had to live through the earthquake and thankful that your damage wasn’t intense. But I am sure the event impacted you in ways that you never would have imagined since it was your home town…

  8. Oh … Hilary.
    My eyes were misty and my heart was wrenched from reading this. I am so sorry that I couldn’t do anything for you. Wish I were there to give you a big hug.

    The great news is the worst is over and (from reading your blogs,) I know that you are very strong and you would pull through this.

    1. Angela – thanks so much.. I could use the big hug! every day gets a little better, and Marc and I are strong, so we are lucky. Also, he is very handy, and the best boyscout type imaginable. If I had to experience this I am so thankful that I had him at my side…

  9. Thank you for shaing your feelings. I know you will find the strenghth to rebuild. Our hearts and prayers are still with you.

  10. Is there anything I can do? If I could send you a brand new house …. water damage free…. I would do it… but alas I don’t have that kind of power…
    The critical part is that you are both alive….houses can be rebuilt and the truth is that time will heal this wound too…..

    sending all my love

    1. Brenda – you are already doing it… you are here for me and you are my friend. however, if you were able to send that water damage free house, I wouldn’t say no…. Love ya!

    1. Johanna – hugs do the trick… It is amazing how much the support and compassion I get from my blog friends means to me. I am blown away. I have been reading most comments to marc as well..

  11. From a distance, our hearts break, but I’m sure they don’t break like those for whom this is the real–not the TV–reality. This whole deal’s a nightmare. We, here, know this and are sorry that you, there have to live it. I don’t pray but if I did, I’d be including you all.

  12. I know exactly what you mean. Here in Upstate NY, we have suffered almost a dozen devastating floods since 2006. My own property has been underwater 6 times in that period, with 3+ feet of water in the basement and floods that wiped out everything on the land. We never get TV coverage and donations, although the media did mention the bad flood of 2007 and last year’s Irene. So I understand exactly how you feel except that I always feel a twinge of pain because we are virtually ignored yet suffer no less than the big cities. We are having WAY too many of these 100-year storms!

    I have been watching the blog for updates, thank God you guys are OK. I know how vulnerable you feel after something like this, how exhausting the trauma is… ! Honestly, I still feel that flutter of fear when it starts to rain heavily but what can you do? The anxiety will go away but it takes time. Hang in there. 🙂

    1. Rebecca – you so get it. I was just talking to a neighbor. We are both afraid to use too much hot water or electric. we are afraid that it won’t last. Everything feels so strange, but you appreciate a lot more… I can’t imagine going through so many floods like you have. I am sorry. We have had one other major flood before, but it no where compared to this… You are a strong lady – and sadly you are right. Upstate NY is never mentioned. Pretty ridiculous if you ask me!

    1. Jan – thanks.. you are right. we never expect things like this to happen to us.. they happen to other people… we are lucky. we are both strong and tough and work very well together…

  13. I will pray for you right now. And for the others who know exactly what you are talking about, because they are living it too.

    I have never lived through a storm like that…but my car was destroyed in a tornado as one blew over the mall where I was working, and we all had to run to safety in the inner hallways on the lowest level. We have seen the devastation of tornadoes in our area many times…but thankful that only a few items of our have been damaged.

    The worse storms in our lives have been losing 3 grandchildren…two infant grandsons, and a 6 yr. old granddaughter. And I can relate to the feeling that one gets when they see everyone going on with life as usual when your world has come crashing down.

    Linda @ Truthful Tidbits

    1. Linda – I am so sorry. I can’t imagine how hard it was for you and your family to lose these children. Now that is a real tragedy. I can’t even imagine… how you got through your days…. I am so sorry… words are failing me right now. I wish I could give you a gigantic hug….

  14. Wonderful post. I have never experienced anything this terrible, but please know my heart breaks for you and your family and your neighbors. Just saying it isn’t so bad since every person is ok just isn’t enough……losing EVERYTHING you had is horrible. Please know that that I am thinking of you. And hey…..we can send socks. 🙂

    1. Random – Love you! I hope you never have to experience something like this. It is horrible, but trying to keep a positive outlook really helps get you through the day. There is so much to do and there is no time for sadness. I am sure that will come later… Socks… ah…. nothing like clean socks (I probably should have burned some of mine rather than washing them….)

  15. Thanks for sharing all of this. I’m sure it’s not the most fun subject to be writing about. But, then again, it’s hopefully a little therapeutic for you as well.

    God is perfect and good and kind in all His ways. Easy for me to say from my comfy home in Idaho though, isn’t it?

    I’ve never been involved in a catastrophe nor have I known anyone who has been involved in one. I look forward to reading more about your journey and seeing what is in store for your future as you, your family and friends all mend from the devastation. 🙂

    1. Jessica – thanks… It was very therapeutic for me to write. Getting my feelings out really helps me. Yes, it is easy for you to say all this from Idaho (chuckles) but you are right. Everything happens for a reason, and while I would be very happy not having to live these past three weeks this way, I do see some good out of this storm. It pressed my “reset” button and I think it helped me really understand my priorities… if that makes sense…

  16. I’ve never experienced anything like what you’re going through. It’s like a wound in the heart, isn’t it?

    We’re all thinking of you both right now.

    1. William – it really is like a wound in the heart. You feel so many emotions… It is a very strange time and feeling…. So thankful I have you as a friend!

  17. I truly wish I could sweep you up from the hell you are living in right now. A group of friends and I contributed to a church drive that collected items for those in need. A group went to NJ to deliver the much needed supplies. I know it is a small step, but I hope the items helped someone like you. Take care of yourself Hilary. {{{{HUGS}}}}

    1. Tami – I wish you could sweep me away too, but that isn’t possible. I would love to “escape for a while” and visit out of town family and friends but there is too much to do… I love that your church collected items for a hard hit area in NJ. I am sure all the supplies helped so many people… xoxo

  18. Hilary this post completely tore me apart. you are right. We DO NOT understand. I feel awful and helpless that you went through this and that you are still going through this.
    I have donated but it is easy to donate from the comfort of your home. I wish I could do more.
    My heart goes out to you.
    I was thinking (and please don’t hate me for this) but God taking Alex when he did, now was a Mitzvah. At his age I don’t think he ever would have survived this and you would have been even more stressed and devastated than you are now because of a concern for his welfare. It is strange how things happen.
    Love you

    1. Caren – hate you? Are you kidding? Marc and I keep saying the same thing… There is no way that Alex could have handled these past three weeks. I am amazed he handled last year’s evacuation as well as he did right after his amputation… but this year there was no way that he would have been able to. We wouldn’t have been able to shuttle him from home to home the days we had sleep elsewhere. Nor would he have been able to handle the dark, cold, noise, mess. It really would have killed him. At least the way it happened he went to sleep comfortable and peaceful….

      Love you too!

  19. Thank you for sharing because we don’t know. We can imagine and pray for you but we truly don’t know. I am so sorry. My heart does ache for you. ((HUGS))

  20. thank you for your honesty – and for sharing your thoughts and pain
    we have had a really bad storm over here with a tornado – on the Algarve of all places! I doubt it even made the international news and yet we have people who are now homeless and many casualties
    thanks for making me think deeper about such tragedies… and the long term impact they have
    and sending you warm love across the miles

    1. Alyson – I am so sorry about the storm you lived through. You are right. I don’t think it made international news. I never heard about it…sending you hugs back across the miles…

  21. It’s sad to hear about all the damage. I’m just glad you and Marc are OK! Wish I could to something to help. I see that you posted that you don’t need anything specific right now, but if you need anything I can help with in future, let me know. I hope things will be back to some resemblance of normal soon.

    1. Cecilia – thanks so much… I thought of what you can do for me… send me a video of squish’s tailless tushie! I miss the stumpy wiggles!

  22. Hilary and Marc, we don’t even have words that can express. Please, please just know that we have not forgotten, and that you and all those whose lives have been so irrevocably changed are in our constant thoughts and prayers. Hugs.

    1. Meowmeowmans – thanks so much… we know… But it feels good to hear / read it…. You are right. So many lives have been changed due to a storm… pretty crazy….

  23. We’re completely with Random, Caren & Cody, Brian and Katnip – we WANT to do something to help. I know it’s the very worst thing to simply ask “what can we do to help?” because the answer is always by default, “Oh we’re fine.”

    One of our friends in our synagogue is from the Rockaways. His folks still live there, and their chocolate factory was there too. All gone. They’r not fine either. So yeah, we donated…and we even sent a friend in NYC out to help out in our place. (HA, *is* there such a thing? Not really…) But it’s just not the same.

    Unless someone has walked in your shoes, there is just NO way they possibly can understand. But we ache for you – and we do agree with Cody, we’re so glad Alex is at the RB with Ryker and not enduring this tragedy. Though your hearts still miss him, and your minds are numb from exhaustion and cold and frustration adn all the other things you’re dealing with right now…please know you’re constantly in our thoughts…

    Will you, though, PLEASE let us know if there is something that comes up where we can help? Amazon.com gift cards, VISA gift cards, a shoulder to scream into… 😉 a social media campaign against some power company or other…?

    1. Maxwell, faraday & Allie – Love you guys! Funny, I already asked for help with a social media campaign against Lipa 🙂 after 17 days of no electric…. you know, until I read this comment I didn’t realize that “we’re fine” is just your default answer. I think it is because by saying it you hope it is true, and it feels normal…. Rockaway was hit so hard. Marc grew up there and a lot of our family still lives there (we are very close by). It is so sad to see pictures of home and restaurants totally gone… and yes, there is such a thing as sending someone else to help out in your place. Trust me, I appreciated all the help we got…

      Marc and I keep talking about how thankful that Alex isn’t here… He never would have been able to have handled the past few weeks. Marc and I are barely able to, but the struggle and the shuffling around would have been too hard on him. And the thought of him having to cross the bridge during this crazy time is too hard to think about. He had a perfect life, and his passing was beautiful…. in his own home, in one of his favorite spots, with his mom & dad petting him….

      love ya!

      1. MOL! YEs, we retweeted for your LIPA cause! We sure hope it helped. At least it got them to DM you, though not with much success!
        Purrs to you…please let us know (as you have time) how things progress.

        {{{{purrrrs n hugs}}}}}

        Da Cats

        1. Maxwell, faraday & Allie – I know! thanks so much for your help. I was so excited when I got that DM…. but you are right, it didn’t help.. but it felt as if at least I had some sort of control… Hugs back!

  24. The worst I have been through was a week without power during a relatively warm time.
    I have no idea what you are dealing with during a cold time with nothing.
    You are right, TV tells you nothing much.You cannot feel the cold,smell the smells
    or see the wreck that was/is your home.
    I prey you can get assistance to rebuild and quickly.
    Purrs Tillie and Georgia,
    Tiger,Treasure,JJ and Julie
    and mom Nancy

    1. Tillie and Georgia – “feel the cold and smell the smells” that sums it up so well… it is such a strange feeling to enter a cold, dark home and be hit with the smell of the ocean in your home… It is also strange that when so much happens at once you really find your strength… this was sure a life changing event…

  25. Hilary we have prayed for you from day one & continue, I wish I had some magical power to make it all clean up instantly, if I can help ANY way please let me know because there is so many things media doesn’t let us know how to help ;]

    1. Janice – thanks so much… I wish you had magical powers too because I am really getting tired and sore from all the lugging and cleaning….

  26. I feel the haunted overwhelming sense of loss of your words.
    No one can know truly what it’s like.
    The closest I can relate is having my home burn to the ground. Starting over literally from scratch.
    Been through several storms, since I live in FL, but nothing on this magnitude.
    Keeping you in my prayers.

    1. Abby – Overwhelmed pretty much describes what I feel… overwhelmed by the destruction of my home, my friends & families homes and the towns I love… as well as overwhelmed by the fact I missed so much work… I never knew about your home burning down. I am so sorry. I can’t even imagine what that was like…. how horrible…. xoxo

  27. Oh Hilary I’m so sorry you ended up getting as devastated as you did! You are absolutely right – you can’t know what it’s like unless you’re actually living it. We got off lucky with just our basement being filled with water (we’re STILL a long way from being done cleaning and repairing and tossing all the stuff that got ruined) but at least we have the rest of our house (and hopefully later today our furnace will be working again). Wish you could come here to stay, or I could come there to help. I’ll be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers for sure! ((HUGZ!!))

    1. Stacy – thanks so much…. I wish I could give you a real hug! But don’t sell your damage short… Having a basement full of water is still a big deal… I have my fingers crossed that your furnace was fixed… It is hard enough being in the cold as adults, but you have two kids to worry about…XOXO H

  28. Oh my goodness! I am so behind in my reading, and somehow I seriously thought you lived on the OTHER coast! I’m so sorry you’re going through this, but I’m glad you guys are safe.

    1. Janet – I wish I lived on that other coast (well, this month anyway). Thanks so much… we are lucky, we are safe and didn’t get hurt….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.