I faced the days leading up to Superstorm Sandy with mounting anxiety. After a number of trips to the market and once we had finally battened down the hatches, I had mixed feelings of dread and excitement with the idea of a storm coming and my family safely at home with lots of food stocked up and a 1,000 piece puzzle. How was I going to stay on track with my WW program with so much worrying and all that food around? With no cable that night, the winds howling, and reports of the tunnels flooding and the Gowanus backing up, I started to feel quite uneasy. Would our basement flood, would the tree in front come down on or house? We nervously peeked through the shutters. Not wanting to miss any news, we fell asleep with the radio on.
When we woke up, the uneasiness was replaced by relief, the winds had abated and everything seemed to be in tact around us. My husband and I ventured out for coffee and a walk. We sadly saw that some majestic old trees had fallen in Carroll Park and noticed that the St. Lucy statue on our corner had been wrapped up like a mummy. Okay, some trees were down, the trains were out, the tunnel was flooded, the kids had no school but we were all fine, including St. Lucy. Then what had really happened around us began to fully register and it was far worse than anyone could have imagined. Whole neighborhoods including Red Hook had been flooded, houses were swept off their foundations, boardwalks were reduced to splinters, roller coasters were in the ocean, boats and cars were piled up like tinker toys, over 100 homes in Breezy Point had burned to the ground, and absolutely worst of all, lives were lost. Relief gave way to disbelief -- and profound sadness. How could something like this be happening so close to home, to our neighbors? Things like this didn't happen here, or so I thought.
It was almost business as usual in Carroll Gardens. Our lights were on, we had heat and hot water, kids were trick-or-treating but things just didn't feel right. We listened to the daily briefings by the governor and the mayor and suffered through his Spanish. Our biggest problems were spotty mail and newspaper delivery and how my husband was going to get to work, not really problems at all. As the week progressed and temperatures started to drop, I was starting to feel downright guilty. Guilty about having lunch at the Cobble Hill diner and going to a movie. And guilty about sleeping in my warm home, surrounded by my family, when so many others, not too far away, had suddenly become homeless, with their families uprooted.
Shouldn't I be doing something to help? What could we do?? Well, thanks to wonderful people like Vicki Devor and Joan Bredthauer who disseminated information to Carroll Gardens and the PS 58 community almost immediately, we knew what we could do. Under the guidance of John Heyer, Jr., Moira Camarda, and Annmarie Ilardi, Sacred Hearts/St. Stephen's Church held a weekend food and clothing drive to help our neighboring parish, Visitation BVM, and the turnout was overwhelming. Two lovely women at Citibank on Court Street had a coat drive. Parents and students at PS 58 held a bake sale on the street outside the public library on a very cold Election Day to raise money for Sandy Relief. And thanks to all those people, I found ways to help and started feeling less helpless.
I know problems are so widespread, many people remain without homes and power or heat, and frustration is still running high. But I do see neighbor helping neighbor, sometimes at the most basic level. The latest feeling is pride. I am so proud of the response around me, so proud of my Carroll Gardens neighbors.