Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

November 2, 2012

Eyeing the Storm: Returning to Hurricane Sandy

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Life's Toolbox @ 8:26 pm
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We spent the days before, the days during, and a few days after hurricane Sandy watching and worrying from afar.  We live close to the regions hardest hit, but were on the opposite coast, where two minor earthquakes escaped our detection, but the New York news was all we listened to in the car and in our room.  We worried through the projections, showing massive bands of wind and rain, likely to hit our home on Long Island with a direct punch.  We watched in shock the pictures of flooded subways and tree smashed houses.  We tracked with intensity the cancelled flights, wondering when we could get home, and what we would find.


We arrived home to a house thankfully intact, all family okay and accounted for, a yard filled with downed branches, some weighing hundreds of pounds, but none that damaged our home or others.  Neighbors, who were heading into their 3rd day without light, heat, computers or phones, uniformly asked . . . why did you come home?”  We did leave 80+ degree days, offers by the airline to voluntarily be bumped from our flight, and palm trees. . . so why did we come home?


It seems trivial, in the light of the thousands who have lost so much in this storm to say we needed to be here, to see with our own eyes, the status of our home and our community.  We had heard of near misses, lives saved; and we had heard of losses, homes gone and lives ended in the storm’s fury.  The communication glitches meant that well-meaning friends who were watching our home could not call us with news.  Family members could not easily check in with us, and when we could connect, calls got dropped, conversations frustrated by poor sound and static.


We were basking in sunshine, yet we were never quite able to relax.  Perhaps it was the stories that seemed hard to believe – New York city virtually shut down and sealed off – or the friends who’s weddings were impacted – or the costs, human and otherwise, that kept multiplying on our screen.  Of course, we came back when we did, in part. because of work demands, but I suspect there is more to it.  I don’t know that I would have been any less worried, anxious, or concerned had I been physically here when the winds and rain ripped through our yard.  What surprised me was how powerful and unceasing the worry was when we were safely thousands of miles away.


In working with those impacted by trauma, it is always assumed that those closest to the disaster are most vulnerable.  But experiencing Sandy at a distance I realized you can not assume vulnerability based on location.  Sometimes, even those who do not personally experience the trauma still feel its power. Psychologists know that part of what makes trauma challenging is the loss of power and control.  In times of natural and man-made disasters we lose our ability to predict, plan and manage our lives.   This is true whether we live the trauma up close or watch it unfold.


I have made it through two powerless days.  I’ve camped out with neighbors at the local library, plugging into communal power strips and sharing stories of gasoline lines.  I’ve been wrapping myself in blankets and winter coats and coming outside to join groups watching trees cut down and lighting crews working.  I’ve been finding places to get internet and touch base with family all over the east coast who are okay, but are still struggling and dealing with material losses.  The powerlessness I felt at a distance has been replaced by a very real power-lessness!  I know that the best way to deal with trauma is to focus on what you can control – so I’ve been hauling tree limbs to the curb and cooking defrosted food.  I know Sandy’s impact on this part of the world is far from finished. Although it is only a few days since I left sunshine and palm trees, when the sun goes down it seems like our Spring is very far away.   My heart goes out to all who are still struggling, and I am praying  for every small ray of light that helps and heals.



  1. Thank you for helping me to understand why I’m daily streaming NYC news into my Jerusalem kitchen.
    The concern for family is real and the empathy and concern for all those who remain in a situation that is terrifying in its enormity, is constant. May you have strength.

    Comment by sunnymoms — November 3, 2012 @ 4:21 pm |Reply

  2. […] Eyeing the Storm: Returning to Hurricane Sandy ( […]

    Pingback by What I Learned from Hurricane Sandy « Green-ish Life — November 6, 2012 @ 2:18 am |Reply

  3. You really had the pulse of how we, in Florida, felt!!! Trauma reaches our very being no matter whether we are “in it” or “outside of it”…. It is still so upsetting to view the losses!!! Alas, we can empathize, and, perhaps, give moral support, but so glad that you can do much more!! The Florida Folks.

    Comment by E and S Milch — November 14, 2012 @ 12:14 am |Reply

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