Thursday, November 1, 2012

Jersey Lament

from Tuesday, 10/30

I type by the light of 2 battery “accent lights” from a 6 pack I got at Costco on Saturday, my back vaguely warmed by the sea of candles lighting the rest of my first floor. I cannot even upload this post, since we are without power, like most of New Jersey, and without power, I have no wireless internet…but I still have some computer battery left…so here I am.

Hurricane Sandy was, for us here on my street, a big storm punctuated by four hours of Really Scary --think 40 foot willow tree bending sideways in my yard as we heard pieces of our house peeling off. We lost power about 8 p.m. on October 29, just after the storm made landfall far to the south of us, near our beloved Cape May…where my onco kid conquered her exertion anxiety and climbed all 199 steps of the famous lighthouse just this past June. Within an hour of the power loss the winds picked up, the air sounded like a freight train even from the safety of our candlelit living room. From our somewhat protected back deck we could see the sky lighting up as transformers and wires danced explosively. The sound of it was something I have never really experienced before….

And we are miles and miles from the nearest coastline.
This morning I was afraid to look out the window…but in the breezy stillness and light rain I could see that the willow, while maimed once again, was still standing. We lost 2 gutters and 3 pieces of metal trim literally peeled off the roofline of our house (the longest twisted piece of metal is about 7 feet long)…but aside from that, and a carpet of branches, we were remarkably unscathed. Our entire neighborhood was remarkably unscathed, one dead tree had fallen in the space between 2 neighbors’ houses, but that was about it.

The three gourds someone lined up on our deck railing remained in a neat row this morning.

We are so lucky.

My spouse went out in search of coffee and a real bathroom (we have well water, so no power=no water, and only late this afternoon a neighbor with a generator hooked us up to their well so we can at least flush toilets and wash hands), and saw the extent of the damage near us…trees down everywhere. Wires down everywhere. Houses hidden by fallen trees. Poles and wires tangled and blocking roads. It’s a mess. We found out that a good friend who lives about a ½ mile away had significant damage to their home and property. My work (a school) had 14 trees down on the campus, and the streets around it are impassable because of downed utility poles. Friends around the country were texting me, but I could hardly get my texts to go out, the networks are overloaded here or something…

And then we managed to find some radio coverage of what was going on…

Our poor New Jersey got flattened.

Being disconnected from information NOW is so frustrating, so deeply frustrating. See, Jersey is a really small state. Freakishly small. So when news reports talk about Hoboken or Jersey City, we remember when we went to dinner there…or a reporter stands on a windy beach in Point Pleasant, my youngest remembers when Daddy got to chaperone her class trip to the aquarium there…or the camera pans to Atlantic City, I think of the fun I had with my sisters on my 40th birthday trip there, or how I went there with a friend on my first grown up vacation when I was barely 21. Seaside Heights? My first NF Endurance race. Lavallette? Where my parents vacation every summer. Newark? Great time at a Devils game, or where my girls got to see Taylor Swift in concert. Hey, that reporter is right by where we did the Polar Plunge for Camp Sunshine last February!

Jersey is small. If somewhere is on the news, unless it’s the far southwestern portion (that’s a tad less accessible to northern Jersey folks), we’ve been there, and generally had fun there, or we have friends who live there, or a neighbor works there….

Sigh. Sandy threw a smackdown on our neighborhood, both locally and our little state.

Getting specks of information, not being able to get cell phones to connect, not seeing what is going on…knowing that all of our favorite places are not just struggling but likely obliterated…it’s appalling and frustrating and scary.

I know we are tough here, it’s what Jersey is famous for, in some respects, that “fugghedaboudit” attitude that is so easily parodied. But under that, just like under any tough shell, is a deep love for this crazy little state. We accept being the punchline of jokes because we know the truth about the gems that lie just beyond the famous Turnpike. We know that we have invented all sorts of unique and impressive forms of corruption here, of double dealing, of stupid laws, of personality stereotypes, of insane home prices and cost of living, of food (ok, our food is awesome)…but beyond ALL of that ridiculousness, we love this place.

I know I will cry when I finally see the pictures, the pictures of this state I love, this state I call home. I don’t have it in me (in the dark of my powerless house) to burst into inspirational song about triumph over adversity…this one hurts. It does. The scope of this is so huge, and our state is so small, it’s our home, every corner of it is kind of in our backyard.

But we are Jersey proud. And we will get through this, even if it seems sooooooo clichéd to say that right now. So Sandy…we know you threw your best at us, and you knocked us down, and yeah, you flattened us…but are we going to just lick our wounds and hide in the Meadowlands with Jimmy Hoffa somewhere?



  1. I heart you, K. Glad to hear that you guys made it through in one piece. I thought about your family the whole time.

  2. Thank you for letting us know - we were away and had no news in English when the hurricane struck, the first I heard was an email saying my New York sister was OK, we were horrified at the scale of destruction when we got back and have been anxious about you. We love some of the places you mention, simply from your descriptions, and I know how dependent people needing medical treatment are on a functioning infrastructure, thank goodness you are coping well. Hoping you get power back soon, love from Sarah