It’s been a few days since the storm hit. The power has FINALLY returned, the TV has shows other than the news, the frantic Facebook posts have died down, and civilization is starting to resemble normalcy. Now it’s that point where we think about everything that has happened, assess the damage, and realize how lucky we are.
On Sunday, I sat in my Hoboken apartment thrilled that I could work from home the next day since all public transportation into the city was shutting down. I got all of the emails that basically said “leave now or you’ll regret it.” There was a mandatory evacuation of all first floor apartments. I live on the first floor, but I have a few porch steps, so I don’t count… I heard of neighbors getting phone calls encouraging them to evacuate, or locals who had volunteers knocking on their doors, asking them to get out now. We ignored them, like everyone else. It’s just a storm.
On Monday, the skies got darker and so did the warnings. We wondered if maybe we took everything too lightly and walked to the river to watch the storm roll in. It was worse than we thought. The roads were closing at 4:00, apparently, so we thought maybe there’s reason to worry. Not about the storm, but about the power going out – I didn’t want to be stuck without power. My dad finally agreed, better safe than sorry, and picked us up only hours before the roads closed.
The rest, as they say, is history, and we watched it unfold via Twitter, radio, and any scrap of news we could find through the darkness. At my parents’, we lost power and patience; at my home in Hoboken (yes, I finally think of it as home) everyone lost so much more.
There were a few days of worry and panic about my apartment. And I admit, there were a few tears as I watched Tweets and news stories recount how horrible the damage was in Hoboken which, as Hobokenite and Today Show reporter Natalie Morales put it, “it looks like Venice.” Even a Tweet showed Eli Manning assessing the damage of his uptown luxury apartment lobby, not immune to natural disasters. The infamous pictures seemed to all show the blocks surrounding my home; the drowned taxi cabs, the PATH station that looks like a scene from Titanic.
But today, the water has almost completely receded, and we returned to assess the damage and at least give me piece of mind. Hoboken, a town usually filled with bustling 20-somethings – living by the work hard/play hard mentality and making their bar presence known – was a ghost town. The neighborly part of every person was showing as the few with power had set up charging stations for cell phones and the most popular restaurants – even the most expensive – handed out free food to anyone that wanted it.
And I walked by in amazement toward my apartment and then turned onto my street. We are so lucky. I was worried first about the water coming into my apartment, which had reached 4 feet in many places surrounding my block. Sandy missed us by inches…literally. I was worried about the looters, which had recently been reported. Everything was locked up safe and sound. All I lost was the contents of my refrigerator. (NOW I know why everything was on sale at A&P on Sunday – hindsight is 20/20.)
And then I looked out my bedroom window, which was really the only source of light, and saw the neighbors across the street. They wore masks as they leaned out their first floor windows, scraping off molding filled with mildew, throwing their furniture onto the street. Couches, mattresses, furniture, even clothes were piled high, all to be taken out with the trash.
Even after my town made national news and my heart still aches for this place that I call home, I know we’ll be fine. New Jersey is the most stubborn state in the U.S. and Hoboken is the most stubborn city – we will be 100% fine. Areas of Staten Island are so much worse – houses completely leveled and a death toll that climbs. We are so lucky. And then there is the Jersey shore, that in addition to containing memories for all of us, had so much more tangible damage than any other area.
And through it all, as I followed closely on Twitter and the Hoboken Patch, and eventually on CNN and all of the news channels – I can’t write this without saying THANK YOU to the town. Anyone who says Hoboken didn’t warn us enough – that’s the stubborn Jersey in you talking. They warned us, we didn’t listen. I didn’t listen until panic set in and convinced me to evacuate. Anyone who criticizes Mayor Zimmer should try being mayor of a town in a natural disaster – in a town that never experience natural disasters – trying to rescue its stubborn residents, probably without sleep for days, while participating in countless live interviews, so that she could beg for the help we needed. The Mayor and the city swallowed their pride to get the National Guard, FEMA, and President Obama into our little mile square so that we could get help.
Hoboken, I love you, and I’m so proud to call you home. Now, let’s get back to normal so that I can keep bragging about you while I sip my coffee staring out at the NYC skyline. The view is just better here.