As a New Jersey resident, I have experienced the last few days of Hurricane Sandy first hand. I left my apartment on the College Avenue campus of Rutgers University Sunday night for my parent’s house in Edison, NJ to brace for the worst of the storm. Luckily, Sunday night was characterized by solely high winds and did not cause any damage in my area. Monday, however, showed the real brute strength of the storm. A tree from my neighbor’s yard slammed into the roof and deck of my house. Fortunately, aside from a busted gutter and some displaced railings on my deck, the structural integrity of the house was unaffected. Nonetheless, since Monday night I have not had power and the forecast from my electric company suggests that it will be down until sometime next week.
Aside from all the doom and gloom that has characterized the storm, there are some positive takeaways from this “unprecedented” disaster, so labeled by university officials at Rutgers and Governor Christie.
In effect, this hurricane has halted the lives of most people of the metropolitan tri-state (NJ, NY, CT) area. In my family, my dad works on Wall Street at Bank of New York. The shutting down of the PATH train and transit has prevented him from going to work. My mom stays at home and manages the family online business. The lack of internet has prevented her from being able to attend to her business associates. My brother and I, students at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University respectively, have had school shut down for the rest of the week due to the damage. As a result we are all home together, as a family tending to each other’s needs and the needs of the community around us.
My family took advantage of this opportunity to have a romantic candle lit dinner the other night, with whatever we could muster up and cook from our refrigerator. It was a team effort, and about time that I started learning how to cook properly from my mother. The candlelit meal was a unique experience that I would not have expected to have before the storm. My parents, who are immigrants from India, shared stories about their childhood when not having power was just as common as having power. They told my brother and I that when storms hit there were no warnings, there was no preparation in advance, there was only the mercy of Mother Nature and hoping for the best, making our current situation seem more bearable.
Without electricity, we decided to go to the movie theater, the only place in town that had power, and watch an Indian movie together. My family has never gone to the theaters together to watch an Indian movie, but, given the conditions, it gave us an opportunity to spend quality time together and create tighter bonds in the midst of the storm.
This storm has reminded me that in times of struggle and difficulty, irrespective of where we are in life, family and community is what helps us persevere. When our neighbor’s tree hit my house, he was the first one to come over and ask if we were okay. Although it was not his obligation, he called the insurance companies and the tree service to ask how the problem could be resolved. As we were trying to set up our generator, our other neighbor lent a helping hand and showed us how to properly configure it.
At times we may not have power, but we will always have family and community. Like all the wires spewing out of the generators in the neighborhood, we are all connected, and these times serve to bring us closer as a community. Amidst all the tragedy and misfortune, we the people affected by the storm are reminded that in moments of difficulty, there will always be a helping hand. Without a doubt, those affected will emerge from the storm stronger and with unbreakable bonds that will define our relationship with the people around us going forward. In this 21st century world where we are caught up in the demands of our professions, events like this slow down our lives and make us understand the core relationships that define us as human beings.