Friday, November 2, 2012

Sandy Day Six: Teasingly Close to Home

We awoke this morning facing another day in limbo. There was no room at the inn this evening, so we needed contingency plans. First choice, of course, was to get home. We packed our bags, checked out of our luxury hotel and spent all morning in the hotel pub, working. We had no place else to go.

Our town emails newsletters occasionally, updating residents on local events, council meetings, etc. There was no communication during and immediately following Sandy. No electricity, no power, no cable, no cell service, no communications. By Thursday systems were slowly coming back, and connections resumed. We began receiving emailed announcements and posted updates on Facebook.

We finally left the hotel about 1:00 p.m., intent on getting home. We decided to try and enter with or without the town’s blessing.

We tried one bridge, but an accident temporarily forced the road to close. We drove a few miles to the second bridge, entry to the town next to ours – and struck pay dirt. No long line of cars snaking across the bridge, and as we approached the tollbooth did not see any flashing lights. No police checking IDs. And a bonus – the bridge toll was suspended.

We drove slowly across the island. There was little traffic or activity. We neared the town border. It is not normally a border, but concrete barriers spanned the road. We parked a couple of blocks away and walked home.

The Border

No one stopped us. It was eerily quiet, but not totally abandoned. We saw a couple of people walking, riding bikes, cleaning offices and clearing debris from their property.

Our town today - boarded up businesses and bike riders. 
It was a short walk to our house. Everything looked normal, except there were no cars around.

There it was. Our house. The yard was disheveled, mulch and debris all over the driveway, sidewalk and flowerbeds. We opened the garage door. The garbage can was overturned, garbage strewn around. A toy box, bikes and other stuff were knocked over and into each other. We walked through the back yard. More debris. But a few hours of manual labor and all would be right once again.

We could see around the outside of the house, the fence and garage how high the water rose. A small puddle remained on the second step inside the laundry room, indicating how close the water came to inundating the rest of the house.
The line of dirt indicates the high water mark on our garage.
By 4:00 p.m. the town officially welcomed residents home. We walked back to our car, waited in a line of cars as we inched our way to the checkpoint, showed IDs and were ushered into town – officially.

Tomorrow morning the electric guy and heater man arrive to inspect the house. No heat, no hot water, and most likely the washer and dryer died. The rest of the house is intact and dry.

The town instituted a 6 p.m. curfew. Before cocooning for the evening we stopped by a local deli that reopened today with a limited menu and picked up a couple of salads for dinner. The deli, along with the few other businesses open, had to close by 6 p.m.

This evening we are staying in an apartment close to our house. It is warm and dry. There is heat, electricity, and cable.

It is almost like being home. We are tired of being vagabonds and road warriors, and are looking forward to time spent in couch potato mode. The weather is turning cold, the leaves are off the trees, and winter gray defines the atmosphere and mood.

Another episode of life’s surprises closes. So what did I learn?

·      We can manage remarkably well without most of our material possessions.
·      Our problems pale compared to those of too many others.
·      It is wonderful to hear from friends and family, touched by their thoughts and concern.
·      Upending regular life is exhausting.
·      We are getting old. (I actually knew that, but this experience reinforced the reality.)

We are all visitors to this time, this place.
We are just passing through.
Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love…
And then we return home.
                                                - Australian aboriginal proverb

The next chapter of repair and return to normalcy begins. Stay tuned.