Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Living as a refugee

I'm tired. I dont have energy to write coherently and organized but i want to put my thoughts down, so bear with me. I have been living as a refugee the past 10 days. Its ridiculous. People who live at home with power and lights and heat, appreciate it!

Ill start the timeline from last weekend, Oct 27. It was a gorgeous shabbos. we all commented how this was the 'calm before the storm'. I had lots of sleepover company and some guests for lunch. It was a calm and enjoyable day. We had kinda talked at work that day about the 'what ifs' of Hurricane Sandy and stuff but the truth is we were all poo-pooing it. Remember, Irene had come just 14 months before with a lot of hoopla and very little damage. So we werent too concerned.

Sunday 10/28, I decided to take my kids to a free science museum (if you get there by 11). I figured there was a chance i'd be stuck at home monday and maybe even tuesday if it was reeally bad, so lets give the kids a fun time. we had a super time there.

At abut noon, I started getting calls and texts from my brother and mom 'Are you in Zone A?' 'come to the Lower East Side'. My bro and SIL were there anyway. And apparently the mayor was calling for us to evacuate, just like by Irene. School was already cancelled for tomorrw. I called Ad and asked if we were indeed supposed to leave. FIrst he thought no, then realized yes. OK, so I left museum after lunch and came home. Packed for two days and figured it was more than enough, we would be back by Monday or Tuesday the latest after the non storm. Packed a bunch of leftovers, got to Mommy about 4:30 and enjoyed the rest of the night in good spirits. Kinda fun to be forced to spend family time on a random October night. Even a little exciting. Thought about going to get some food but it seems most places were taking these warning seriously and were closed. So glad I wasnt due yet, was just imaginging how awful it would be if I was.

Monday 10/29 - it was windy and rainy but not TOO bad. We kinda felt like school didnt HAVE to be cancelled but ok it was. As the day progressed the winds picked up. Mom doesnt have wi-fi so I walked a block away to see if I could get it elsewhere on my tablet. I ended up deciding it was too rainy and windy but I passed an opened $.99 store and bought the kids coloring books and each their own box of crayons. It ended up being a great thing cuz they used it very often. Its getting later and we can really hear the winds howling. We felt safe cuz it was in an apt buildling. Ad calls it 'Helms Deep'. Shaain needed a change of scenery so we walked through the buildling and hung out in the laundry room where we found We watched some of the coverage and realized it was pretty bad in some places. I also finally got brave enough to borrow wifi from a neighbor and got back onlne. Ahhhh. GOod to be connected again. I also started seeing some freaky pictures of what was all going down back in our hometown of Far Rockaway. OMG. Good thing we evacuated. A street in my neighborhood and my daughters school:

My kids were having a hard time sleeping cuz of the noise. The building and Facbook people and the radio were warning that we might lose power. We didnt really believe it but halfheartedly looked for some flashlights and battery operated radios (and batteries), coming up with the former but not really the latter. And about 8:30, all power went off adn we were like 'ohhhhh' altogether. Shaina cried and we comforted her. We lit candles, put on flashlights and started to look again for a radio and/or batteries, this time with more ernestness. My husband and SIL were laughing at us as myself, mom and brother scrambled here and there searching. We needed SOME sort of connection. Mommy found a big radio that took 6 D batteries and she started emptying out flashlight batteries but it wuldnt work. Finally brother borrowed 4 new batteries from a neighbor in a different section (which meant going up and down in pitch black stairwell). Mommy put it in, played around and voila! Noise from the radio!! What a releif to feel connected again and we sat there for at least an hour just listening to what we were realizing was a really bad situation.

Tuesday 10/30 dawned pretty nice. Storm was over. Great. Ad was itching to get out of there. He wanted to go home and check out the situation. Like right then. I wasnt ready, told him to go ahead and maybe wed come back later. I needed time to pack and regroup and stuff. But one thing was clear. Between not having any more clothing and being in a fortress that was 5 flights high without power or water (oh did I mention that, they go off together in her building), there was no point in staying much longer. We made some lunch on the stovetop and the kids colored as I tried to reach Ad numerous times. It was very challenging because service was spotty and the batteries were running low. At 3 or so I figured if I didnt hear from him i might try to go to Brooklyn or something with my mother where they had electricity. I finally heard from him like 3:30. He told me that a lot of homes had flooded basement as did our synagouge but our home was thankfully dry and untouched. 

There was no power anywhere in the area but we did have water, both hot and cold. i told him to come get me and packed up while we waited. Finally he came. We went down and saw the supermarket across the street had a line to get in. They were letting one person at a time. i didnt see the point of shopping without a refrigerator. 
Driving home was a relief. Jut to get air. It was also bizarre, especially as we got closer to the roads to our home. No lights anywhere, including traffic lights. Very scary. Cars abandoned in streets - cuz of no gas? Worry about flooding? Trees down all over. We got home, lit candles and put on flashlights and made some chicken nuggets for dinner. Our old oven is on gas and worked great. After kids went to bed, Ad and I watched a movie on a netbook that has a long battery life. It was challenging but doable. 

Wed, 10/31. I cant begin to tell you how much we appreciate morning and the sunlight. We can do things!! Lots of it! Without any help! I took hot shower which was great, gave kids cereal and finished the milk. Delicious coffee. Yay for running water even if we had to boil it in a pot instead of our urn. Surprisingly fridge and freezer stuff was decent. I put some stuff in freezer that i wanted to keep fresh. Did a little cleaning. Kids were happy to be home and played beatifully. Ad was called to do some computer work at a community center about 10 minutes away. They were up and running and from the first block in the greater area to get power back already. They were offering hot food and a place to recharge. Ad was there since 10, I only came about 2ish. Didnt realize what was going on cuz email was down, otherwise for sure would have came earlier. There was really good food and places for kids to play, videos, etc. I recharged my ipad and phone and felt so good to be able to surf again. Surfing and being connected further made me realize what a crazy situation it was. boardwalks and homes were washed away. Tons of people homeless. Fires burned down some homes not too far from us. People had died from trees and drowning. Manhattan, the metropolis of the world was not enterable from most bridges and tunnels which shut down train systems as well. At least on the lower end, there was no getting in or out and no power. HOV rules were being enacted. I was glad i was no longer there. Some pics for those who havent seen any:

Anyway, We left the warm lit center at 4:30 to get home before dark. Both wanted to refill our cars with gas and knew it wouldt be too easy. Thankfully it wasnt too hard either as we only had to go to three gas stations and wait for about 10 minutes at the last one. Only in the days to come did we realize how ridiculously dire the gas situation was and still is. Still the whole thing took time and it was getting dark as we were going home. My car also hit something at some point and was making a very funny sound. I was glad kids were with Ad. I slowly made my way home. It was one of the scariest rides of my life. getting dark, scraping noise and no lights once we entered our community. It was hard to see everyone crossing the streets and the last intersection before my house was big and petrifying. Thanfully I made it but boy was it scary. I threw together 'hurricane meatballs' (mixed random sauces that i needed to finish up) and rice and put kids to bed. Since the little netbook was charged we got to watch two movies. Not much else to do in the dark. That night I started getting tired of not having electricity. I also was very scared overnight, kept thinking I was hearing looters. I knew there were patrolers around but still I kept thinking my neighbors broken fence was someone breaking in. I resolved to go to brooklyn the next day.

Thursday 11/1. Somehow it was November. Yay. morning again! Time to be productive! I cleaned some more, confirmed with my aunt in brooklyn that we could come for shabbos and started packing. Im definitely more productive when there are basically zero distractions to slow me down. It was 60+ hours that we were living without power. Not so fun. Ad went back to center with my cell phone to charge it, it was nearly dead. so no way to reach anyone at all. Yikes. It was a relief to leave at about 4:30. I brought ALL my laundry besides for towels. Ad thought I was nuts. I knew i was smart. Who knew when i'd have a chance again and how long I'd be in Brooklyn. The drive in was nuts. We drove half the way with no traffic lights. All the way up the Rockaway Peninsula. Actually went pretty fast because we were on the main road. Saw army trucks coming the other way. Saw a bunch of torn down gates by the water and debris all over. It was such a relief to get to Brooklyn and have power once again. I did lots of laundry THursday night but didnt fold it. Some other people from my area were staying there too and it was a bit tight cuz they were in basement with us. Thankfully they were leaving for Shabbos. Bro and SIL came as well, nice to see them again. They had to leave car on LES cuz no gas and came by public transportation.

Friday and Shabbos 11/2-3. Good to have a normal morning. Folded laundry. Aunt and Uncle have a huge 2-family home that they converted into a big one family. Cousins live on top floor with 5 kids, they live on bottom. Each floor has 3 bedrooms. Basement has two newly added small bedrooms plus a small main area to play. Took kids out for pizza. lots of people around for shabbos. My family and bro and SIL staying in basement. Cousin from Lakewood has no power and are staying on first floor along with single cousin who lost power in his dorm. TOp floor also has cousin's sister and her 3 kids from Elizabeth, no power either. Anyway both floors had full meals and it was a lot of fun, maybe just a tad overwhelming to be with so many othyer people. Saturday nite a bunch of us went out to Cafe Hadar. Why not. Kids are sleeping and there is babysitting at home, might as well take advantage. I'm realizing these little things are keeping us sane throughout this whole ordeal. At this point, while people were finding out that power was going back all over Jersey (my mom had gotten it back before Shabbos), we were getting news it would probably take weeks longer. Weeks. Like as in the week we just completed. its easy to stay upbeat and happy and positive for a few days or a week. Longer than that it can get near impossible. :(

** Tired and so happy that Ad is home, he told me he'd be staying home tonight but he came in the end. So i'll continue this tomorrow. We're up to week 2 of ordeal, sunday 11/4.


  1. Wow. Reading a first hand perspective on the hardships brought on by Sandy really puts things in perspective. So happy you and your family are OK. Prayers that your electricity - and "normal life" - comes back online for you soon. Looking forward to reading part II!

  2. Really hoping that it doesn't take weeks for things to get back to normal for u. We lost power for 8 days with Irene and I was going insane!!! I can't imagine dealing with that with 2 little ones. You're all in my thoughts :-)