Let's talk about the wisdom of the storm called Sandy: that anything can happen to anyone — at any time.
Even to someone like me. I live in Maryland. I am a divorced mother proudly raising a teenager and a tweenager. I work at one of the largest employers in the state.
Most of Sandy's damage was in New York and New Jersey, with Maryland suffering relatively little harm. But not everyone in our state escaped unscathed. I was without electricity from Monday, Oct. 29 to Wednesday, Oct. 31.
It was very cold in our house. The constant rain caused the coldness to have an Arctic edge; it was cold and wet. One night, my daughter and I slept in the same bed just to keep warm. We dressed in sweat pants, hoodies and socks before we retired. We dared not move for fear that the covers might shift and allow the cruel coldness to penetrate our makeshift cocoon. I think the scariest part of the night was not the inky darkness but the thought of having to travel by candlelight into the glacial bathroom. I never realized how icy and merciless a toilet seat could become.
Had I been alone, I would have given in to the melancholy scene; but I am a parent, and I had to stay strong for my kids. (Every parent wants to prepare their child to be a survivor.) I tried to keep the mood light and let laugher warm the atmosphere. I really felt like it was working, until my daughter said, "Mommy, I'm really cold — when is the heat coming back on?"
I felt totally defeated, but like any good mother, I reminded her of how fortunate we were: "This cold is only going to last for a short while; surely BGE is working on the problem right now. It could be worse; there are families (in Maryland) who live in buildings with no power at all, there are people who live on the streets and don't call the power outage toll free number to get an update estimate. We have a very visible light (no pun intended) at the end of our tunnel. Be grateful, princess!"
At that moment, I was almost glad that there was no light to reveal the tears that were rolling down my face. I was imagining the parents who are faced with questions like that every day. "Mommy, when are we going to sleep in a real house? When can I have a real bed? Can I have more to eat? Mommy, I am cold ..."
Sandy has reawakened a sense of gratitude and sensitivity within me. As the Northeast continues to recover from Sandy and people begin the business of holiday plans, may we whose lives were disrupted by the storm remember those who live under adverse conditions every day.
If you weren't touched by Sandy, maybe you were a victim of summer derecho storm, or the "Snowmageddon" two winters ago. Remember how it felt to lack heat or air conditioning when you needed it? Remember how it felt to have to hunt for an outlet to recharge your phone? Remember how it felt to finally have a hot meal and a hot cup of coffee or tea?
Tuesday morning, the grandparents brought hot sandwiches and hot tea over for our breakfast. My children were elated to have hot food. I cried. I cried because I was grateful that someone remembered us. I was grateful that my children were having a moment of relief. I was grateful that I could hold a cup of warmth.
On the calendar it was only three days, but as we were living each moment it felt much longer. We had a very visible light at the end of our tunnel. There are others for whom the light is not so visible. There are mothers and fathers, grandparents, siblings and others who would appreciate a hot breakfast or warm clothes. As the weather gets colder and the holiday season approaches, let us not forget that for some, those "three days" are every day.
Sandy taught that anything can happen to anyone at any time. It just did to my family, my state, my geographical region. For some of us, the power came back on quickly and we carpooled our children back to school. Some of us are contacting insurance companies and tossing out ruined basement carpets. Some of us are staring at where a deck used to be. Some of us are leaving the shelter to find another place to keep our family off the streets. Some of us are returning to our cardboard house under the bridge. Some of us are wondering how we are going to afford a coat for our child because another cold, wet day is coming, and then another — and the light is not so visible at the end of the tunnel.
JaSina Wise lives in West Baltimore. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.