I barely got out of New Jersey before Sandy came barreling in on Monday; my flight was one of the last ones to leave. Everything was calm on Sunday night, the sky was overcast but there was really no wind or evidence that anything major was about to happen. It truly was “the calm before the storm”. I made it home safely and said prayers for all of my friends in harm’s way before I went to bed.
The next day I watched as the reports started coming in of wind speeds and wave surges being unprecedented for this area. Nothing like this had ever happened to this area to this degree and I was glued to the reports. I saw people evacuating lower Manhattan, saw a reporter speaking to someone who was getting married that day at 5 PM and then evacuating immediately afterward. People were carrying their pets, their children, some belongings, but they seemed to be handling it fairly well.
Later on the news turned deadly. There were reports of massive power outages, flooding streets, storm surges destroying homes and everything else in its path.
I was communicating with my friend on Long Island who still had power and she was sending me updates by text message. From her description it sounded like the gates of Hell had opened and all anyone could do was wait it out. She wasn’t even in a mandatory evacuation area so she and her family barricaded themselves inside.
Everything was affected by the storm. Roads, bridges, subways, trains, businesses, were all thrown into chaos. People were wondering what the daylight hours would bring.
After the storm had passed through, the cold, harsh light of reality hit millions of people. Homes, cars, possessions were gone, swept out to sea or into a pile of rubble at the end of the street. Many people lost their lives, over 100 at last count. The news reports kept coming in, showing residents standing in the middle of a burned out neighborhood or shaking their heads as they tried to make sense of what they were seeing.
Then, an amazing thing happened. My friend told me that she went out on the street and gathered together neighbors who hadn’t lost as much as others or who still had power and they started going door to door looking for people who needed help.
When the first responders could clear the roads a bit she said that trucks owned by private companies were coming to neighborhoods and supplying water and food to people who had nothing. Others were inviting folks into their homes and offering heat and shelter. Young people were searching basements for the elderly or disabled, making sure that no one was stranded.
I started hearing from my other friends in New Jersey and Queens. The same type of thing was going on there as well. People were coming together to help each other; they weren’t waiting on FEMA or any other government agency. They took charge and with their own know-how helped their neighbors. Hundreds of people were stepping up to help. Even those that had lost their homes were lending a hand.
On Staten Island, which was devastated, groups of volunteers set up a station for people to come to. Hot meals were cooked by moms and dads, clothes and coats were handed out to freezing kids and hugs were given for comfort.
In the midst of such a horrible disaster, the people rose up and held out a hand to their neighbors. This is what America is about and sometimes we tend to forget it when things divide us.
The media of course leads off with stories of looting and anarchy. Yes, I am sure that there have been incidents of that. An element of that always happens in a disaster. I want to think that those stories are few and that the stories of courage and hope and help are considerable.
God works in mysterious ways and when he calls on his children to help others, that call is answered. The government may try to tell us that faith and religion are a thing of the past, but it is at times like this that God sends a wake-up call to remind them that they are wrong, faith, hope and love will prevail. This crisis will pass. We will rebuild better than ever, these people will survive and be strong again, and all of the people who unselfishly helped out their neighbors will find a special spot in heaven.