If a tree falls in a forest, but no one hears it…
did it really fall? That was the feeling I had after the storm last week. For my Wordless Wednesday post I thought the photos should stand on their own while I gathered my thoughts.
The storm itself was rather anti-climactic for me in that I was on campus studying alone in the lounge. Having always been afraid of lightening and thunderstorms, I tried my best to coax myself through it and soon enough it was over. After waiting an additional half hour afterwards to make sure it was really over, and anticipating any traffic mess that might have ensued might be cleared up by then, I headed home.
Almost immediately I hit traffic leaving Washington Heights towards Queens, and my only thoughts were that once again the rain had brought out the idiot in every driver. As congestion eased up in certain areas and the reasons unknown, my exasperation increased because my normally 20 minute commute was doubling, tripling and then some. As if walking into an alternate dimension, it took me almost 25 minutes to get off my exit and I was not prepared for what appeared before me.
I was greeted by traffic chaos created by non-working street lights and cars just going at will in every direction. Cautiously navigating the few block drive to my house, my jaw felt permanently dropped. I saw trees on top of houses, roofs ripped off, branches everywhere, cars smashed in half by fallen trees and fall power lines giving sparks off. As I drove through the neighborhood I couldn’t help the eery feeling creeping over me. As I drove into my driveway, a sigh of relief washed over me to see that our home was untouched and we still had power for the time being. I ran into the house giving my kids the biggest hug I could muster, weary from the long drive. My in-laws made light conversation about the storm and the neighborhood while I thanked G-d for sparing us. When the husband got home, we proceeded as if the storm was a mere blip in our past, dinner eaten and kids readying for bed. The husband’s craving for Hooter’s wings demanded he get home and off he went into the chaos… and then it all went dark.
Already nightfall, it was pitch black and the infant was on the floor in the playroom, the toddler in the living room playing by herself while Grandma was cleaning in the kitchen. I was working on the computer and when the lights went out, I dropped to the floor crawling around trying to remember where the infant was last. He was just sitting quietly frozen in the same place I last saw him trembling. I quickly scooped him up into my arms and called for the toddler. She came running and before I could protest, she easily navigated the stairs down to the playroom and right into my arms in the dark. With my children in both arms, I located my mother in law and handed her both kids, moving them to the living room and telling them NOT to move. Meanwhile my mind was racing. Where are the flashlights? Where is my phone? How do I secure the family? Do we have candles? Where is the husband?
I had no idea where the flashlights were but remembered that just a few weeks ago I had finally made an investment in something I thought we and any family should always have, an Etón FR600 Solarlink. I recalled placing it in the basement for an emergency and now know that’s probably not the best place for emergency equipment to be when an emergency occurs. Lesson learned. I felt my way down to the basement and used the limited light my cellphone provided to locate the brand spanking new unopened Etón FR600. I chided myself for not opening it sooner and familiarizing myself with its operation as I attempted to do so to the light from my phone. Luckily it was mostly intuitive and a few cranks later the light was activated and the radio was set to 1010WINS.
Gathering myself, I finally placed a call to the husband and like someone who hadn’t fully comprehended the situation only said to me, “Oh well, what can I do about it. I might as well get my wings.” !*$%&*@!? I hung up the phone feeling frustrated and that eery feeling was creeping up on me again. Making my way back towards the kids, I sat with them in the middle of the living room hugging them and memories of 9-11 came flooding back. I felt all alone and the chaos and destruction outside of my home seemed unreal, almost like a scene from a movie or dream. You’d think I’d learned some valuable lessons from having survived such a tragedy to be more prepared. It was a huge shock to realize how dependent we are on power. Without it, we truly felt POWERLESS.
All the things I would do in crisis or panic mode required electricity I realized. Without power I had all this free time on my hand that I would normally kill for, but ironically I needed power to enjoy. I wanted to study, but needed light to read. I wanted to bake, but that required light, power and then some. I wanted to surf the internet without having to do work or study… but that also required electricity. This was an awful feeling. On the upside, it was already late at night and the children were sleepy and power mostly wouldn’t be missed if we were sleeping. Tomorrow morning would bring sunlight.
As I laid in bed, 1010WINS still blasting their news alerts, I was suddenly struck with concern with how long this power outage would be. There was still chaos on the transit lines. Ours in particular was still shutdown. I sadly didn’t feel like I had the luxury to miss school simply because of a power outage. I feared how much of my grade would be deducted in my absence especially since the city was
untouched by the storm. Sometime during the middle of the night, while tossing and turning I realized I had a much bigger problem to deal with. While the adults of the household and even the toddler would be okay, the infant would not be. Right as the power went out, I was in the middle of placing an order for baby food. The infant was still nursing and my storage of breast milk was now lost due to my in-laws incessant need to eat to compensate for lack of power compromising the refrigerator and freezer situation. The infant had no baby food AND no milk. I was devastated. Mapping it out like an equation, I placed all the factors into a bucket. NO mass transit tomorrow, MUST go to school, NO power, NO baby food, NO storage of breast milk — and I came to the conclusion that the infant was going to college.
Despite the initial protest I got from the husband, without power at home, no baby food or milk and concerns over my grades, he finally agreed that it was best I went to school. Despite giving myself a traffic buffer time, we still cut it pretty close getting to class on time. There were many prayers said as the clock advanced and I was fortunate to find FREE parking just a block from my school. As I walked into class I felt strange with a baby in tow as the city looked untouched by the storm. Even my professor, who despite living out on the island, I couldn’t even begin to convey the depth of damage done in my neighborhood. With only her commute effected, I could only explain my situation and hoped she would understand and she did.
It was the same feeling through out the day. Just miles from home, everything was untouched by the storm. When we returned home, still no power restored, I needed to make a grocery run for baby food and was greeted by a curious display of people. The store seemed to be evenly divided by people who were either effected by the storm or not. There were shopping carts stocked full with emergency necessities and other filled with their normal shopping. I knew which group I belonged with and it was very surreal. So if a tree falls in a forest, but no one hears it… did it really fall?