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… 😀
Thanks for having me, Lime! And as an OSU alum, you know I don’t mind at all – Go Bucks!
Liz–I understand. I’m a native of south Louisiana, now living in south Texas–both favored targets of Gulf Coast hurricanes. I understand why folks do–and don’t–evacuate; why they of course choose to rebuild; why thoughts of people–friends, neighbors and others involved in the disaster–far outweigh any concerns for things. Of course you are thankful. I am thankful with you that Sandy didn’t cause more heartache. And I am touched by your column. Take care of your precious family, Liz. I hope you enjoy a wonderful and peaceful holiday season.
Thank you so much for your comment. I wish you a peaceful holiday season, too.
Liz, thanks so much for the wonderful and thought provoking post. We live in Kansas, but have a niece and nephew that live in New York City. They lost water and power, but thankfully were not harmed. Hurricanes are a force to be reckoned with, and people need to remember that fact so that they will be safe. You never know when a force of nature will hit you really, really hard. I know of people that were killed during tornadoes because they didn’t think it would be that bad, and didn’t bother to take shelter until it was too late. I’m so glad that your family and neighbors are safe and well and that your home can be rebuilt. We have much to thank God for every day of our lives.
Hi Cathy. It’s certainly easy to become complacent when things are going our way. I’m so glad that your niece and nephew made it through okay. Thank you so much for commenting.
Thank you for sharing your story. Watching the footage of the aftermath of this hurricane really broke my heart. Looking at the devastation, you ask yourself, “Where do I begin?” I also grew up in the Midwest so recognizing the conditions for a tornado and seeking shelter has been a regular part of my life. It’s hard to figure out why some people do not seek shelter or evacuate during impending natural disasters. It can be due to not thinking it will be as bad as everyone says to not having the resources to leave to not knowing it is coming. My heart goes out to the families that lost their homes and to those unfortunate to have lost friends and family members. When these storms hit, I immediately worry about the homeless with so many children on the streets, were they able to find adequate shelter? I think about the pets as well. Many families don’t leave because they cannot take their pets with them. What is wonderful about your story is your perspective. There are those that would simply give up. Of course, for many there is a period of mourning but remembering how fortunate you were to survive and focusing on what really matters speaks to the heart of who you are as a person. Best wishes and I hope that you and your family and friends have a wonderful holiday season.
I’m so glad I was able to share this story with Limecello’s followers. Thank you so much for your kind words, Colleen. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday, too.
Liz thanks for your story it makes you think and be thankful for what you have I have been keeping everyone from the East Coast in my prayers. God bless you.
Thank you so much, Kelly. It’s heartening to know that people are continuing to keep their thoughts and prayers turned towards those affected.
I live in Florida, so we are kind of used to hurricanes, but they never get easier to deal with. They can be completely devastating. I always prepare for them regardless of where they are supposed to hit. I am glad that all of your family and friends are okay. I have to agree with you, possessions can all be replaced, but people are irreplaceable!
Hi Tina. It’s definitely better to err on the side of caution in my book. Thank you for your kind words.