If it was a fight, it would have clearly resulted in a knockout for Fort Lee. Not that residents weren’t prepared. We listened to Governor Christie. Most of us, knowing Sandy was coming--a Frankenmonster we were told--went shopping for supplies, stocked up with cans of soup, cooked pots of rice and pasta and stayed indoors. We watched the news and stayed on the internet, parlaying with friends near and far, as long as we could. For most residents in Fort Lee, blackouts came between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Monday night. Now, a day after the storm has passed, electricity is still down, and in the wake of Sandy, much work remains to be done. Restoring electricity, returning clean water to residents that have none and cleaning up the streets of fallen trees and other debris will take time. State and local authorities have made that clear and they hope residents understand and comply with their demands for safety.
Governor Christie stated in his announcement that he is far more concerned about the welfare of New Jersey residents than the upcoming elections. It’s hard to remember how important that election is when one gazes at the tired, lined and worried faces of every age and background that are finding temporary shelter at the Community Center since the night of the storm, hard to recall why it is so very important to vote for a U.S. president who cares about the country and every individual in it, and why that matters as much as having electricity.
Disasters help put our lives in perspective and remind us of what really matters. It’s not just the little inconveniences—like Internet and television—we face living without in the wake of what became Extreme Tropical Storm Sandy. This area is filled with elderly people. One friend has a mother that was using oxygen until about seven p.m. Monday night when his power went out. He couldn’t switch oxygen on for his mother without power.
But it’s not just those without immediate emergencies that find themselves at a loss. Most of us can’t go very far without ATMs that deliver cash or gas stations that fuel up our vehicles—Never mind that most traffic lights are down, and there is still no calling out on most phones. No way for many people to let their loved ones who live out of the area know that they are all right.
And still, it could be much worse. We are, in effect, back to the early part of the last century, consigned to knocking on doors to inquire if our neighbors are all right, to gazing at them and shaking our heads in disbelief at our common plight, down to bringing over blankets and a cup of soup and sharing with virtual strangers at the same table. For many of us, habituated by the internet and technology, communicating like this will be like learning how to ride a bicycle again. It shouldn’t take long. And it should be rewarding, providing solace during the long wait after the storm.