Trying to process the week. What follows is not a story of great loss or of heroic feat. It was my week, which now that it is over, I'm trying to put together, day by day. Allowing myself recognize that I was in shock and took time to rest, which is not something I do often or well.
Friday we abruptly left work at 5 p.m. The doors needed to be locked shut, physically. We have a magnetic lock that wasn't going to hold if we lost power. I had really no idea what was headed our way at this point, I'm thinking no one did.
Saturday I was working around my apartment, put a couple of things on ebay and etsy as a way of getting rid of small things of value that I don't need any more (nothing sold). And I finished my awesome Halloween costume. Somewhere I started to realize that Sandy was coming and maybe I aught to prepare for a power outage and trees falling in my window. I bought a few candles in the event the storm leave me without electricity.
Sunday I moved my plants away from the windows and packed my bag for a few days to stay at David's, my boyfriend's place. While he was in Zone B in Brooklyn, I did feel that it was better to be in numbers, and didn't want to drag him away from his roommate, who would be alone if I selfishly made us stay at my place. We ate and drank, and were glued to the news at the pending storm.
Monday rolled around, the winds picked up, work was cancelled, I worked a few hours from David's desk, and spoke to my boss just before his power went out - for days. David and I walked outside before the storm 'hit' but was already causing a ruckus in RedHook. We were only outside for a few minutes before we came back in, always careful not to walk under power lines. Glued to twitter, Facebook, and the News to try and comprehend all that was happening.
Tuesday, the first day of the aftermath; David and I walked to RedHook, the street was slick from and oil spill all down Van Brunt (note picture above). Basements were flooded to the tops of doorways; Fairway had flooded somewhere between 5-12 feet, depending on who you talked to, either way everything was ruined, gone. Cars had been flooded and moved, Street planters moved BLOCKS away all from water and wind. Even containers moved.
How can we harness this power in the future!?
Wednesday, again struck by the devastation. Rode down to Redhook to see where I could help out, but many people seemed too much in their own loss to even know where to tell someone to help. I dropped off my few candles I didn't need, and with my portable battery charger was able to get one person's phone a little more juice.
When all of your belongings, everything you have worked for your whole life has been covered with dirty sea water, what do you save? If anything? What is that grieving process like? How can a stranger help you with this process?
I ran into a good friend Alexander Gorlizki in Redhook. He lives there on the 3rd floor of a brick building with his wife and twin daughters. Except for no power they were doing just fine and had no loss from Sandy. Their neighbors down stairs in the ground floor apartment were not so lucky and were in the process of removing everything. I stayed a while and had tea with Alexander and caught up, it's been a couple of years since we have seen each other. We kept daughters occupied by making them cardboard skirts and shirts. And oh, it was Halloween, I'd completely forgotten. I guess the costumes I made will still work next year.
I finally went home and worked on a hat that I started last winter. David's roommate had tickets to Jimmy Kimmel, who filmed all week in Brooklyn and we were offered the extra tickets since others were not able to travel to Brooklyn. It was quite a treat, even though I wanted to cry the entire time when they had us cheering at the top of our lungs for the show. But I guess we needed to laugh. It was Halloween after all.
Thursday was my friend's birthday and realized that while I'd spent so much time worrying about others and in shock, the work week, was on it's tail end already. I have a sick father upstate and barely knew how he's doing. I made many phone calls to my family and friends with and without power to see how they were faring. I felt and continue to feel a little bit that my hands are tied. I'm really an not in a financial situation to give much, but can work, but really wasn't sure how or where.
I finished a hat that I started almost a year ago. Sometimes, it's good to help yourself too.
Friday, I woke up bound and determined to do something. I started by making about 7 dozen Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. I had intended to bring them to my cousins who were in SOHO on their, however many-th day without heat or electricity, and while they are very self sufficient, I thought it would be good to eat some homemade food anyway. I still didn't make it into Manhattan. My cousin met me at the Brooklyn side of the Manhattan Bridge on her bike and we headed for Red Hook. While she had been without power, she hadn't seen all the damage Sandy did. On my bike ride home, I saw this: Cars trying to fill up on gas for block and blocks; hundreds of people with little red buckets in their hands.
To Fall Asleep I finished reading Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver. Her novels which include gems of biological study and notes on our environment are heart-breaking and timely at times like this. Environmental signs have been coming our way for years. I wish that it didn't have to take something like this for people to really 'get it.'
Saturday I finally found a place where I was able to jump in and volunteer. I packed up my bike with as much as I could fit and spare. I had forgotten I had a sample mat I never used, I had an extra full package of toilet paper, a couple of bars of soap, a few canned goods and a few more dozen cookies. When I was almost all the way to Red Hook Recovers outpost, a fellow biker asked me if I was going to drop off and informed me that the location now had an additional post, and I followed him there. I first talked with people about where to drop off my donation, but so many were unsure, as I had so many things, I quickly realized that everything donated had to be organized, and it seems like a pain that I'd dropped off a bag of random things. I then started to make bags of food, people would be coming soon who would need a bag of food and there were tables and tables of food that needed to be open separated and then put back into bags, insuring that people were to get a semi-balanced meal, not just a bag of canned food or a bag of oranges, for example.
Then clothes started coming in and it seemed overwhelming for many people, so I started to bring it outside to organize and put out for people who needed it, within five minutes there were about five people organizing clothes, and cars of people dropping off clothes from all over Brooklyn where there had been donation points earlier in the day. So many people were cold and had been unable to wash their clothes for days, there were so many requests for socks and coats. From everyone's donations people were able to get what they needed. There was a surplus, and we started to take bags upstairs to organize, then bring back down stairs for the cars bringing supplies to The Rockaways.
I had brought lunch, and spent a few minutes outside eating my turkey sandwich before continuing to organize more clothes. For those who didn't bring lunch a volunteer went around passing out PB & J's.
Did I mention that the Church in Red Hook that was offering it's services as a community space had also been flooded? There was a whole team of volunteers emptying that out too. They all had worked well past lunch hour and so I went and found the PB&J's for them and some water. Sometimes volunteers need a volunteer too.
My boyfriend made we a very yummy dinner and we cooked more cookies and watched SNL. Quality time was at it's peak. I hope and think that others may have found some moments in the past week for a little more down time than usual.
Sunday: Day of relaxation. I helped my boyfriend and his roommate rearrange and clean their apartment. I realized how much joy I get from moving and helping others make their living spaces nicer. After all of these days being glude to the news and social media and have heard of so many friends who have partially collapsed family's homes, I can only hope for all those effected by Sandy will find serenity soon. I am sure my volunteer efforts do not end with this week, but that my able body will do more to help create living spaces lost from Sandy.