I try to post lighthearted bits of babble on this site, but events of the past month have made that a bit difficult. There’s no way to gloss over the destruction that Hurricane Sandy laid waste, to not take a moment to acknowledge the lives that have been upended, and those that have been tragically taken.
Today, President Obama is visiting the storm-ravaged New York area. If you live in the tri-state area or know someone in the region, you’re well aware of the personal horrors and the tragedies that this storm wrought. There are countless poignant stories that have been told, and so many shocking photos detailing the damage. Yet still, there are many areas that remain without power, areas that are drowning in garbage and building rubble, entire neighborhoods that are trying to stop from teetering over the edge. Of course, in certain areas, like Breezy Point, the road ahead is that much harder.
I know these are generalities, and that vague descriptions of a disaster are much less tantalizing than raw photographs or haunting images of decimated communities. But that’s by design. Those photos are out there and easy to find; what I want to talk about is the importance of community. I’m hardly the poster child for this subject—at least I didn’t used to be. I’ve lived in New York City for years and for whatever reason, quirky DNA perhaps, the anonymity suited me perfectly. I found solitude in detachment, a certain peace in not having to deal with neighbors.
After I got married, we started renting a place in Long Beach for the summers. For four years we did this, coming back to the same house, the one with the same terrific neighbors, on a street where we saw familiar faces year after year. If you’ve never been, Long Beach is one of those places where everybody knows everyone else on the block. It’s like Cheers, but beach side and with bungalows. It’s tight-knit, the kind of place where you can’t walk out of your house without striking up conversations with everyone else who’s outside—and in the summer, everybody lives outside. Long Beach still has block parties, a veritable throwback to a time that seems, in many ways, easier and more innocent. This is the place that seeped into our bones, the no-frills seaside spot that became a part of our lives.
Our adopted Long Beach block was flooded by angry waves that ate away the formidable beach dune. Water surged into the street and into homes. It overtook everything: wooden supports, plaster pilings, couches and TVs, snapshots of moments long gone. Cars were tossed around like boats that had come unmoored. Chaos was left in the storm’s wake.
There are some who have been displaced from their homes, who are eager to get back to the block, to reconnect with their home and community. There are others who have worked tirelessly for weeks to scour away the hurricane’s lashing, trying to right-side their world and return to a sense of normalcy. It’s going to take a lot to finish this job. There much left to be done. Communities, no matter how strong, still need help, and like many others that were in Sandy’s path, Long Beach still has great needs.
I trust this won’t be lost on President Obama.