The Week After: A college student and Superstorm Sandy

A sign made by employees of the local bar in Long Beach.

As a recent transplant to New York, Long Island to be specific, I was new to the whole hurricane thing. I was wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, not expecting that “Superstorm Sandy” as it was referred to on New York news channels, would be anything thing more than a rainy, windy day in Maine. Well, I was wrong to say the least.

It started off easy enough. We all crammed inside a dorm room with loads of snacks and watched Netflix movies, it was kind of like a giant sleepover–until we lost power, and the ceiling started leaking. In a state of panic, everyone starting whispering about evacuations and flooding and trees falling on buildings. I, being entirely oblivious, thought that none of that would happen, and it didn’t happen to me directly, but it did happen.

When I walked outside on Tuesday (yes, I stayed indoors Sunday, Monday, and most of Tuesday) I was shocked. Our gorgeous campus filled with flowers, trees and leaves, wasn’t looking like it did when i went indoors on Sunday. Giant trees were uprooted and knocked over, blocking walkways. Half of campus had no power. Cars were covered in the leaves and pine needles that covered pretty much everything else on campus. And school had been cancelled indefinitely.

This tree fell at Hofstra, blocking the walkway for a couple days.

Now, me being new to hurricanes thought this wasn’t all that awful compared to what they had predicted. I lost power for the short time span of an hour, my car was in tact and functioning, nothing i owned was covered in water, and my cell phone was charged and working. I wondered why all the panic. Then i ventured outside of Hofstra.

At the local mall, people wearing hoodies and sweatpants sat on the floor, plugging their electronics into the outlets in the walls. Lines to get gas went on for miles, the longest wait time I’ve heard so far is four hours. People panicked about the “gas crisis” rushing to fill their cars up, even if they weren’t on empty. I did not understand this crisis and to be honest I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Being completely unprepared I had not gassed up my car before the storm so I’m in need of gas. I waited in line for an hour, only for the station to run out of gas, a very common occurrence. Many still don’t have power, forcing people to flood to the open ones. I tried one more time to get gas last night–well, technically this morning– at 1 a.m. To my disbelief the lines still stretched as far as the eye could see….AT 1 IN THE MORNING!

Cars lines up to get gas. This line was over 1.5 miles.

People to this day (over a week later) still have no power. Many businesses are running on generators, and for the ones with power, like mine, it flickers often. The floodwaters washed away many people’s cars, leaving them unable to get to work, or get groceries. Target’s shelves were nearly bare in the week after, and local restaurants had astronomical wait times.

So, by now you’re probably thinking what I was thinking–this hurricane thing, not so good. But just keep reading. On Sunday I ventured out to Long Beach, a peninsula in southern Long Island. I had heard that Long Beach was badly affected, but I was not prepared for what I saw: trees everywhere, sand covering the streets, no power anywhere, flooded cars, piles of soaking items from flooded houses. I wandered aimlessly in shock for a few moments, carrying a bag full of clothing and blankets to donate to residents. My friends guided me to the donation center, formerly an ice rink, and from there we headed to Claire’s house.

Hofstra student, Taylor McAllister helps to clear out Claire’s basement.

Claire is a 54 year-old Long Beach resident who had lived in her house on California Ave. for 21 years. Nothing like this had ever happened to her. Superstorm Sandy flooded her basement, destroying televisions, couches, books, photos and cassettes. The water filled her basement, risen eight feet, and seeped through the floor into the first floor of her house, which is currently unlivable.

I spent the day in the dark musty basement (pictured right) windows caked with sand and mud, bagging up Claire’s belongings and hauling them to a pile by the side of the road with several friends. We emerged filthy, covered in the same mix of sand and mud that caked Claire’s windows and covered her floor and walls. We finished cleaning out her basement, a project that had been started three days before.

Cars and piles of damaged goods line the sides of Long Beach roads.

On the way home, I sat in the backseat thinking. I had spent that day bagging up someone’s destroyed belongings and memories, just to pile them in a heap by the side of the road and leave them. Now, I don’t want you all to feel awful. On the contrary, I want you all to be happy. True, this is a horrible blog post, about loss and suffering. But it should really put your life into perspective, I know it did mine. I have my car, I have my family, heck, I even have power and a fully charged cell phone.

So please, take a moment to be thankful for what you have, even the things that are taken for granted, like gas and electricity. We have all been so fortunate in this tragedy, and its something we shouldn’t take for granted.

 

Look below to see the full gallery of photos I took after Sandy.