“Is that a mobile home?” My mother asked as we were driving through a neighboring beach community this past summer.
“Yes,” I answered, quietly.
“They’re allowed to park it in the street?” She asked, innocently.
“Yes. After all, what choice do they have? They have to live somewhere.” I replied. “Look at the house that it is parked in front of. It’s still condemned. They probably didn’t have insurance and don’t have money to repair or rebuild it. Under the circumstances, that mobile home is probably the best they can do.”
“But Hurricane Sandy was two years ago. How can that be?”
I didn’t have an answer for my mom, because I don’t understand how it is possible either. I can’t fathom how many people still are in a state of turmoil, living without habitable homes seven hundred and thirty days after the storm wreaked its havoc. Equally or possibly more sad is the fact that these men, women and children continue to suffer, alone. Unless you live in one of the hard hit areas, like I do, you’d have no idea the destruction from the super storm continues to destroy people’s lives each and every day.
Two years later, driving through these hardest hit towns, you feel such a mix of emotions. In a lot of ways the towns have received a much needed facelift. After all, destruction brings construction. Many new businesses and restaurants have opened. In a way these additions have rejuvenated the neighborhoods. But there is a cost. Old time favorite stores and restaurants are gone forever, unable to afford to repair and rebuild. Their absence is felt constantly – especially since a hospital was one of the casualties.
New construction has to be higher to meet the revised codes. So now beautiful, enormous houses have been erected where beach bungalows once stood. These new homes are gorgeous. But not every house on a block needed to be elevated or rebuilt. Some homes miraculously were able to sustain the storm surge and winds. These survivor houses now are completely overshadowed by the new overbearing giants taking over the neighborhood. But they are the fortunate ones. Other people just have a slab of foundation to call their own.
I am one of the fortunate ones. My home was repaired and rebuilt within six months of the storm. My town fared slightly better than many of the neighboring towns. It is amazing how much of a difference a five foot elevation can make. Although life appears normal for my friends, neighbors, and me none of us are the same. We are all completely scarred from the aftermath of the storm. Not one of us can make it through an evening without mentioning Sandy. She is always present in our heads and our hearts.
Sandy changed us all. I look at life differently since the storm. Before the storm, I would stress over the silliest things. Minor disturbances and challenges would make me crazy. Now I see them for what they are, nuisances. All that really matters in life is the health and safety of yourself and those you love. If you have that you can get through anything. Sandy made me stronger. As we existed for weeks in the cold, wet, and darkness, carting out our destroyed belongings while helping neighbors at the same time, I discovered a strength I never thought possible. Also I learned how wonderful and compassionate people can be, especially in a time of crisis.
Hopefully by this time next year everyone will have a place to once again call home….