Surviving Sandy

It’s so easy not to be grateful for the things we take for granted.

Every night we go to bed, knowing that when we wake up, our world will still be the same because we are in charge. We own the place. We shape it the way we command it to be. Chaos has been tamed into perfect order. Life has become reassuringly predictable. 

Our fridges are filled with fresh food. Clean water will come out of our faucets. Outlets provide us with a constant flow of energy. On cold days, central heating keeps us warm, and the roof over our head protects us against the dark forces of nature.

Until nature decides to teach us a cruel lesson. 

Hurricane Sandy was such a lesson.

 

Why people have to learn their life lessons the hard way, I honestly don’t know. Perhaps it is because we often learn more from the things that don’t go as planned, as opposed to the things that go exactly as we imagined. Some things, however, we either can’t imagine, or we refuse to accept the possibility that they could happen…. to us.

What I have learned is this:  disasters do not discriminate. 

Flash floods and hurricane winds will wash away the residences of the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the sick and the healthy, the liberal and the conservative, the Democrat and the Republican.

Nature doesn’t care about our possessions, our monuments, our accomplishments, our basic needs or even our friends and family. Things that we believed to be certain for many years to come, are washed away in a matter of seconds. Cherished landmarks we built with pride, are crushed and erased in the middle of a stormy, moonlit night. 

People panic as they are overpowered by a raging enemy beyond their control. Tall trees that have stood strong for decades, are uprooted in the blink of an eye, and plant themselves on roof tops, vehicles, power lines and on the kind man in his sixties who went outside for two fatal minutes, just to let his dogs out. 

As you look at the images my neighborhood woke up to on Tuesday morning, Sandy was well on her way to torture new towns and destroy the dreams of other people. 

Today, I count myself very lucky. 

All I lost was power. I had to live without electricity for a couple of days. I could not go on-line. Emails were left unanswered. Facebook was forgotten. Two nights without TV. 

Meanwhile, the radio told me about beaches being washed away, neighborhoods being flooded, houses that were burning, people who were displaced and snowstorms making life practically impossible. 

This is my neighborhood, but my car is not under that tree you see. My home is undamaged. My life is not in shatters. My loved ones are safe, and hard-working men from out of State cleared the roads and repaired the power lines. 

I am grateful.

I am grateful for the friends and colleagues who have reached out to me, praying for my well-being. I am grateful for the first responders who risked their lives in the eye of the storm, the men and women who worked through the night coordinating the response to the crisis, and I am grateful for the many volunteers in the shelters.

I made new friends sitting on the floor at Barnes & Noble, as we recharged the batteries of our electronic devices, because the hurricane had left us powerless. We shared the stories of the storm and the stories of our life. 

In a way it is ironic.  When we have everything our heart desires, we think we don’t need one another. Adversity, on the other hand, brings people together and turns strangers into friends.

Soon, for most of us life will be back to normal.

For many though, normal will never be the same. 

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

Next time, the story of Patrice Devincentis. Her recording studio was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. She lost most of her gear and needs our help.

About the author

Paul Strikwerda

is a multilingual voice-over professional, coach and writer. His blog has been voted one of the most influential voice-over blogs in the industry. He's an expert contributor to Internet Voice Coach, the Edge Studio, the International Freelancers Academy and recordinghacks.com.

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Journalism & Media

33 Responses to Surviving Sandy

  1. Karl Littardi

    Wishing Patrice every success hereafter.

    Best wishes,

    Uncle Karl

  2. Paul Strikwerda

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I agree with you: disasters don’t discriminate, but people do.

    We’ve become so accustomed to the luxuries of life such as clean drinking water, a warm home and electricity. It’s almost inconceivable that there are people on this planet who have to live their lives without it. Nature has a strange way of reminding us that we are indeed the lucky ones.

  3. Debbie Irwin

    You are right, Paul, disasters do not discriminate.
    I know that as a downtown NYC resident– a survivor of the 9/11 attacks and now this.

    But the response to disasters, where resources are deployed, who can escape to safer ground….
    this is where the differences lie.

    Coincidentally, just prior to Hurricane Sandy, I’d been watching Spike Lee’s tremendous documentary about Hurricane Katrina, “When The Levees Broke”.

    It’s a sad and shocking expose of how we (individuals, companies, government, etc.) responded. Similarly, cries of outrage at the response (or lack thereof) were heard in some communities days after Sandy hit. “Why are we forsaken?!”

    I was reflecting on how decisions get made to deploy resources. A woman whose home burned to the ground asked why power was restored to Wall Street prior to bringing aid and assistance to those in her area…..

    James Molinaro, borough president of Staten Island, had to angrily denounce the Red Cross for its lack of response, and the Mayor for continuing his plans to hold the NYC Marathon, before help came.

    Sometimes, I imagine, the decision is made to act where the greatest good can be done. Get power to tens of thousands of people vs. hundreds, for example.
    It’s just speculation. Other times it’s the squeaky wheel….
    and worse, perhaps it is discrimination…. of all sorts.

    In New Orleans the French Quarter was adressed quickly, while the Lower 9th Ward is still suffering. How can we explain that?

    Like Paul, we were without power, water and heat for a week. No toilets, no elevator, and our connection to the outside world waned as the battery on our iPhones and computers were drained. Our elderly dog struggled to walk down 150 steps in the pitch black stairwell to get outside, then looked imploringly at us when we started the trek back upstairs.

    These were minor inconveniences. We are the lucky ones.
    We have the resources to bounce back. Now it\\’s incumbent upon us to help those who aren’t so fortunate.

    These pictures tell a story that words can’t convey…..
    http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/incredibly-powerful-photos-of-hurricane-sandy-dest

    These are my thoughts…. my questions… my reflections.

  4. Paul Garner

    Paul, great article and most thought-provoking indeed. Sometimes we need to relearn lessons. Helping each other seems to be one of those.
    Thanks.

  5. Paul Strikwerda

    @Bernard: I’m always amazed that the U.S. still sees itself as a leader in technological innovation, education and health care. We have the slowest high-speed internet in the world, underperforming schools and one of the most expensive health care systems. I’m no expert on the power grid, but it seems outdated and vulnerable.

  6. Bernard Schaer

    Great and thoughtful writing Paul. Being from Europe I always scratch my head over these often prolonged power outages. Why are the low and medium voltage lines are still above ground where they get knocked down time and time again? And why are the outages tolerated in this great country. I recently found out that Germany’s average power outage per year is 21 minutes. I created a petition: (http://signon.org/sign/bury-power-lines-in-cities. Check it out.

  7. Paul Strikwerda

    @David Thank you so much for your kind words, your wisdom and your friendship. I am so glad that we are connected!

  8. David Bloch

    And I am grateful that we can reach out across the years and thousands of kilometres to share this sort of experience, Paul.
    Bless you for your marvellous gift of words and your ability to place the NECESSARY into perspective!

  9. Paul Strikwerda

    @Rick & Dick: While writing my story I realized that whereas life had gone back to normal in my neighborhood, for many people this was just the beginning of a nightmare. Some have lost almost everything in the storm and they have to rebuild their lives from scratch. The winds have died down, but for them Hurricane Sandy is still raging on.

  10. Dick Taylor

    Great job Paul. Through the years when things like this storm have happened it always makes me quietly, more grateful for the lives of my family. A storm like this makes us realize how BLESSED we are when total strangers become helpful friends. That is life. Reaching out. You have done a wonderful job of just that, with your story.

  11. Rick Lance

    Yes, I believe, Paul, you and others have made the point so well.

    As they saying goes, and I believe, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

  12. Silvia McClure

    Everyone else’s comments are so well said, so let me just say thank you for your post.
    And let us know if there is anything any of us not affected can do to help you, your community and any other victims of this storm.
    With gratitude,
    Silvia

  13. Paul Strikwerda

    @Jack: Sobering indeed. I don’t think this natural stimulus package was something the construction industry had in mind, when they were waiting for the recovery to kick in.

  14. Paul Strikwerda

    @Jim: Thank you Jim. My heart goes out to those who’s lives have been ruined by this super storm. I realize that while I have fully recovered, thousands and thousands of people are picking up the pieces, not knowing what the future will hold.

  15. Paul Strikwerda

    @Kelley: Two weeks ago our basement was flooded but that was a man-made minor disaster. Sandy was ferocious and I could hear her howl in the middle of the night, as she was trying to grab our house. Nature is fickle and life is fragile. I vow to never ever take the ordinary things in life for granted.

  16. Paul Strikwerda

    @Rebecca: The quality of our life is greatly determined by the quality of our connections and relationships. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a storm for people to come together and realize how much we depend on one another.

  17. Jack

    Stirring piece, Paul. I’m glad you and yours are safe. It’s important that we remember: everything we have can be gone in the blink of an eye. Sobering thoughts.

  18. Jim Edgar

    We tend to get so transfixed by the ever appearing minutiae of our lives that events such as this can be powerful reminders of what is important. Very glad to hear you are OK.

  19. Kelley Buttrick

    Paul, You paint a vivid picture with only your words though the photos you feature here are arresting. Certainly a lesson we can all learn from in this blog. Very glad to hear you and yours are okay, and thank you for sharing this story.

  20. Debby Barnes

    Another meaningful post, Paul. I join you and the rest with with a grateful heart.

  21. Rebecca Michels

    Great words, much gratitude that you are ok and had only minor implications from the storm. My father was in Providence during the storm too… A friend from HS days is in PA… all fared well, thank goodness. We do need each other Paul, we really do.

  22. Paul Strikwerda

    @Randye: Thank you, Randye. I’m glad you’re okay. A very nice man from the power company just knocked on my door because we had reported a low hanging wire. Fortunately, it turned out to be a phone line. I keep on learning about the importance of connections!

  23. Randye Kaye

    Paul this is a beautiful piece. Echoes so many of my thoughts exactly. Seems everyone goes outside, says hi, has something in common, and when the power goes out we turn to each other. We, too, are grateful here.

  24. Paul Strikwerda

    @Karen: Thank you so much, Karen. As we speak, part of my borough is still without power and crews are working around the clock to bring it back. I just saw more images of death and destruction in New Jersey and New York. I realize that -had things been different- my neighborhood could have been in the news. I wake up to live another day with immense gratitude!

  25. Karen

    Wow, Paul how beautifully written. It is often very sobering to think how fragile life really is. Thank you for your thought provoking writing, as always.

  26. Paul Strikwerda

    @Debbie: Compared to most people on this planet, we live in exceptional luxury. Every day, I am grateful for the big things and the small things. I have a home. I have a family. I have my health and a job I love. Next week I get to vote in freedom. What a privilege and what a responsibility!

  27. Paul Strikwerda

    @Reuven: Had Pennsylvania built a huge dyke, I’d be the one with his finger in it :-)

  28. Debbie Grattan

    Again, Paul, you have struck a deep chord that resonates in this time of devastation for so many in our country. Glad to hear you are okay. I think there will be many trying times ahead for those hardest hit. We must keep them all in our prayers.

  29. Reuven Miller

    I guess your recent basement flood was just a practice run. I’m glad to hear that you and your loved ones are safe. It’s ironic, but not unusual, that it so often takes disasters like this to get us to look up from our own lives and see the bigger picture. I’m sure that, had the State of Pennsylvania thought to build dykes – you’d have been there, thumb a-ready!

  30. Paul Strikwerda

    @Matt: When I see the pictures of the widespread devastation elsewhere, my two days without power fade away. I have no pieces to pick up. Everything’s intact. I feel for those who have lost everything.

  31. mattforrest

    Well said, Paul. I was thinking, as Sandy was approaching PA, that it was good that you had put in your new studio floor…but then, once she hit, I realized your floor might be the least of your worries! Glad you folks are ok.

  32. Paul Strikwerda

    Thank, you Ted. Nature certainly has a way of putting mankind in its place.

  33. Ted Mcaleer

    What a thought provoking piece. Thanks for putting it into perspective.
    We all need each other. Thanks for all you have done for others.

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