One Year After Sandy

Hurricane Sandy

A year ago, I was posting about Sandy and sharing photos from my local community here on Long Island.  A year ago, I organized a three-day, school-wide bake sale and food drive for local communities.

For most people, a year has made a difference.  In my world, Nana’s tree (below), which was badly damaged in the storm, has been cut down and removed.  

Blue Spruce 3

For others, sadly, rebuilding and recovery is an ongoing process.  Homes are being jacked up above flood stage, while others are caught in the web of being purchased by the state.  And then, there are some homeowners trapped in a world of semantics.  Technically speaking, Sandy was not a hurricane when she came ashore — and so she is called a super storm — and there lies the debate of insurance coverage.

Still, it’s difficult to escape Sandy in the tri-state area.  We all have a tale to tell — of power outages and gas shortages, but also of people coming together.  I will always think of the varsity football players from the high school where I work who donned their jerseys and traveled to the neighboring town — the rival neighboring town.  There, they volunteered at the local church, sorting and folding clothes and boxing food donations.  I can still hear the quiver in the director’s voice as she told me the story.

But as the anniversary of the storm passes with a slight breeze, I’m reliving my posts and photos from a year ago.  I’ve selected a post about trees being our teachers.  In recent weeks — which saw our nation paralyzed by a Congress at war with itself — it seems as if we have forgotten to listen to the trees, that we have forgotten the great things that can happen when we all work together.

After Sandy: Let Trees Be Our Teachers

Evergreen Sandy 2

We can learn a lot from trees.  I first realized this after visiting the Survivor Tree at Ground Zero — and now, in the wake of Sandy, trees continue to teach me.

Take a look at this one.  It’s a Bradford Pear — or, rather, what’s left of a Bradford Pear.

Bradford Pear

It was planted years ago, along with two others, by a local business interested in prettying up a very busy street corner.   I remember when they were all planted.  I was thrilled — at last, a business was taking an interest in beautifying the community.

Besides, at the time, the Bradford Pear was the tree of the moment, planted by towns and homeowners because of its flowering beauty, graceful shape, and instant shade ability.  Their abundance in the landscape — both public and private — turned spring into a flowering tree extravaganza.

The trees planted by this business did what they were expected to do — especially on hot summer days when residents huddled under their cool shade while waiting for the public bus.

But one by one, the trees have disappeared.  One was badly damaged after being hit by a car.  A second came down in a storm.  Now, this is the sole survivor, and I know the story of each of its missing limbs — as if I am telling the tales of the scars on my own body.

One major limb cracked off a few years ago, a wound from Hurricane Irene.  Another was pulled off by a truck that was too tall and wide for the roadway.  And now one of its last remaining large limbs has come down, thanks to Sandy.  But the tree still holds on, no matter what man or nature have hurled at it.

And this week, nature has hurled an awful lot at our trees.  And at us.

On a recent drive to my parents house to get my own glimpse of the trees that are resting on the roof of their house, I could not help but look out of the car window at all of the other trees that toppled over as a result of Sandy.   This is what I learned.

Waiting for gas, part 1.

Waiting for gas, part 1.

Bradford Pears were a huge casualty, probably because of their tightly packed leaves and branches and soft wood.  Perhaps we need to loosen up and toughen up.

Life may not return to normal for a long time, and services cannot be started immediately.  Recovery is a process — whether it’s recovery from an addiction or recovery from a tragedy — and the process will go at its own pace regardless of our wishes.

This idea recently occurred to my neighbor, who is still without power.  Since he is the only house in the neighborhood, it may be some time before the power company even arrives at his house — it’s a reality that he has come to accept.  And although he would like to have the convenience of his life back, he admits that there is something nice about not having power.  His family is playing games and talking — and not retreating to their electronic world in their individual bedrooms.

Maybe — just maybe — we should take the time to unplug, especially after life returns to normal.

The oaks either cracked or toppled completely, probably because of their unwillingness to bend.  We need to be flexible and less rigid during this time.  It will help ease some of the post-hurricane stresses, which are now just starting to bubble. Without flexibility, we may snap — and what good is that?

Hurricane Sandy Gas Line

Waiting for gas, part 2.

In a scene right out of The Hunger Games, homeowners and drivers are lining up for hours for gasoline in order to power their generators and cars.  Some areas are even rationing gas.  There is a shortage of sorts — partly due to NY Harbor being closed (and now reopened) and power issues at various fuel terminals.  Police and attendants are manning the gas stations to maintain order — because nerves are fraying.

For me, it means not driving.  I’m staying local and doing a lot of walking and conserving the gas in my car for when my job resumes — and when it does, I will carpool.  The gas shortage is temporary — and patience (a word that many of us may longer know) is a necessity.

So many pines came down — I think because of their shallow roots.  Ironic isn’t it — that a plant with the word “ever” in its name should have shallow roots?  That a tree so many of us count on for year-round greenery could be so quick to leave?

Sandy Pix 1

One of the trees that fell on my parent’s house.
A year later, the trees are gone and my parents have a newly landscaped backyard.

Some people have said they want to leave, that they never want to experience this again — but the truth is, our roots run deeper than an evergreen.  Those roots are necessary for many of these communities to rebuild and survive — and I do hope people will rethink their decision to leave.  It’s because of people — not trees — that each of these communities has its own flavor.  It makes Breezy Point different from Seaside, which is different than Long Beach, which is . . . You get the picture.

I also noticed that the majority of trees that fell were the trees that stood alone, the trees that — for whatever reasons — grew away from the clumps of wooded areas.

Since Sandy, overnight temperatures are dipping into the 30s and a Nor’easter, which is essentially a cold weather tropical storm, is forecasted for later this week.  Now, more than ever, we need one another for support.  We need one another for strength.  We need one another for protection and shelter and comfort.  We need one another to be a community.

If we stand alone, we’ll fall over.  Together, we have a chance.

25 thoughts on “One Year After Sandy

  1. These storms have a way of reminding us of what’s important. I remember hurricane Gloria and how long it took for normal to come back. Once you and yours are safe you begin to realize the difference between essentials and fluff.

  2. I absolutely love Long Beach. It is the most amazing and majestic area. It is almost magical to me. Storms are horrible, but you are right —this place is home and I hope folks will stay. Bless you for sharing your story. As always Kevin- I enjoy reading your posts. Alesia

  3. What a wonderful post, brought tears to my eyes. I could only post a hand-full of photos from last Oct/Nov after Sandy, and I couldn’t really talk much about it. You are braver than I it would seem! And kudo’s to you! We were so, so, so very lucky that we made it through okay! (Better than we did with Hurricane Irene which was a nightmare for us because of the flooding). I am thankful every day for that. But seeing what Sandy did to the state I was born & raised in (and still live in NJ) and having always lived on or just near the coast… It’s been devastating and heartbreaking. Life changing. Awful. I’ve spent the entire day either in tears or choked up, watching the coverage. Love, hugs and prayers to all of us who were in Sandy’s path, and especially to those who suffered her terrifying destruction first hand.

    • Hey Jo. Beautifully said. A year ago, Joe and I sat in the living room watching everything unfold on television. At 6:00 the sound of the wind changed, and that’s when trees and branches came down. But my town never lost power! I’ll never understand it — and I still feel guilty saying that out loud. Nevertheless, it was important for all of us to pull together — if only we could do that even in good times. Take care!

  4. Great post!! Having survived Hurricane Charlie that ripped through Punta Gorda, FL, you are right on…our palm trees just bent with the wind…and when the storm was over and everything was in shambles…we righted those palms & they were fine!!! “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree…” Psalm 92:12

    My cousin lives in Lavallette, NJ…progress is just as slow as it was here!! And patience is a virtue! God Bless!

  5. I know I’m late to the party, so to speak, for this post but as you probably know, even now — two and a half years later — Sandy still impacts Long Island in more subtle but still powerful ways. There are still far too many homes that have not yet been rebuilt; now there’s an investigation into FEMA-adjuster fraud that deprived too many homeowners of the coverage they should have received; the cost of flood insurance is set to go through the roof for many coastal neighborhoods; and last but not least, Sandy has cast a pall of fear over potential homebuyers who wouldn’t have hesitated to make an offer before. Nowaday it’s unusual to find a homeowners insurance policy with “only” a 2% hurricane deductible instead of the more common 5%, and most insurers are red-lining (non-renewing or refusing to insure) any home within 2 miles of any coastal water. Troubling stuff!

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