The raging winds have finally calmed down-so have my nerves and my fast beating heart. Today is a calmer day, with the sun peeping through thick cumulus clouds, so unlike the stereotypical grey skies of London. The air is cooler and crisp; thank the Lord for finally bringing in a cold front. Never thought I would be thanking for a cold day, but the hotter than normal weather brought in a surprise for Londoners. What are the odds for Hurricane St. Jude to fall a day shy of my sandy-versary all the way across the pond! I swear I am cursed! It may have been scarier than normal for most Londoners, but for me it was DEJAVU pangs of anxiety. If the 62 mph winds weren’t knocking the wind out of me, I would have even had sense to laugh at the irony. Come to think of it, I may have laughed, but it was more a nervous laughter than the kind of laughter one laughs after realizing the hilarity of a situation.
Mostly when I think of Sandy, it seems surreal. I often question whether we really went through those circumstances? The clumps of hair that I continue to lose are an affirmation of the reality of the ordeal from a year ago. The beautiful thing about time is that it passes and it tends to fly. It has been a year since I went through Sandy-which I can safely term as one of the top worst times of my life. The impact of Sandy may not be much on my daily life, other than the odd times when my olfactory senses will be overwhelmed with the smell that I have come to term as the “Sandy smell”, or when I will be reminded of the odd thing or two that were drowned by this catastrophe, however yesterday night, the impact of that storm became wildly apparent. It is true a storm will change you forever, whereas, I used to enjoy the odd gusts of wind in the past, those same gusts left me almost paralyzed with fear and up all night. My wild imagination ran rampant with all that could possibly go wrong with the 62 mph winds beating down my balcony door-for example the trash can lying on the balcony that posed the real threat of being rammed through the glass door, thereby leaving us exposed to all the elements! You would think surviving through a storm would prepare you for any such disaster again. Think again, fear and secondary trauma my dear friends can leave you unprepared. The almost repeat of similar circumstances on the anniversary of my Sandy experience made my stormy weather roommate to suggest that I follow in the footsteps of Helen Hunt in Twister and find my new calling as a storm chaser. I had to inform her that I may have survived through that stressful situation, but I am a colossal wuss and don’t see myself being a storm chaser extraordinaire anytime soon.
A lot has changed since that dreadful night of the 29th of October in 2012, for example I no longer reside in that ground floor apartment; heck I no longer even live on the same continent. Not only was I lucky enough to not have to restart my post-sandy life in that God forsaken apartment, I was lucky enough to be moved across the pond to start anew. The stressful move at that time across the Atlantic surely proved to be a blessing in disguise. They say once you step in a river neither you nor the river will ever be the same again. I had part of the New York bay and 6 feet of Hudson river in my apartment, and although I did not wade through the murderous waters, I did spend more than 3 weeks salvaging the pieces of my life through the muck that it left behind-therefore, I can say with certainty that it has changed me.
What last night reminded me is that no matter that you survived your first storm; a subsequent encounter does not necessarily mean you will be better prepared. Of course the principal of once bitten, twice shy would dictate extra precaution on your part the next time around; which is exactly why I no longer reside on a ground floor. We actively sought for a place away from the water and 6 storey high because of our little Sandy-experience, but precisely because we are 6 floors higher than the last time, I was unprepared to deal with the unexpected storm from last night. Whilst going through the Sandy ordeal, I had taken mental and written notes to later convert them into a guide on how to survive through a hurricane, but playing ostrich became a vital part of survival and I never actually got around to doing that. On my Sandy-versary, I wanted to bring that ostrich head of mine out from under the sand and start on that guide (which I will start putting together in the coming weeks and could be found here.)
What I can leave you tonight is a starter kit to surviving through a storm! The kit needs to consist of:
1. Great sense of humour
3. The ability to roll your sleeves up and get dirty
5. And an ample dosage of great friends and family-this last one is of utmost importance because everyone has fair weather friends, only a handful of people are lucky to have stormy weather friends-and stormy weather friends are forever!
The truth of the matter is that the Sandy days are behind me but the experience will live with me eternally. Perhaps overtime it too will fade in memory, but the generosity, love, and care that my dear friends showed me will live with me forever. I look back on that terrible time not with anger, but rather nostalgia. What I lost that day were material goods, but what I gained goes far beyond the material world. I learned the beauty, strength and the human will for survival, I experienced shared grief, communal generosity; I earned gratitude, fortitude and patience. Most of all, I learned to cherish and love my friends who took us in when the roof over our head had 6 feet of water below it. On the anniversary of Sandy, I choose to be thankful first and foremost to God for giving my husband and I the mental and physical strength to survive through it, for putting friends into our lives who had such big and generous hearts and for letting us be of the few who were affected very little by Sandy. I choose to be thankful to every single person, friend, family, community member who stood by us, whether it be in providing shelter, helping us through the clean up process, letting us use their showers to clean ourselves up, for acting as movers to help move our belongings, helping us carry our dirty laundry, for providing emotional and moral support when physical support was impossible, for their prayers and best wishes, for words of encouragement, for providing entertainment and humour and of course who generously cooked for us. A big thank you to all those who suffered equally with us, yet offered a helping hand as neighbours and community members. I may have digital images of the disaster, but I have feelings of love and gratitude towards all those family and friends who supported us that cannot be captured in any digital format. To the bonds of friendship that became stronger due to Sandy I say Sandy wasn’t a disaster at all!