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Hang on to the simple moments
Changing our outlook on life
Tonight my ten year old dropped my laptop. She was not given permission to be walking with it, nor was her brother innocent when he teased her which is why she dropped it. Or she dropped it and he fell on it, the story is not clear. I have also decided not to investigate.
At first I was very upset. I said nothing though. I just looked at the screen with it's jumbled lights flashing across it. My husband took it from the kids and promptly scolded them with a speech to make them feel guilty for taking away Mom's tool for writing hubs, for writing grants, assisting with our soccer club, getting her work schedule and answering her emails. That my laptop was not a toy for me, that it was wrong for them to be careless. My daughter shed many tears. I said nothing, but instead went to visit my parents who live next door. They immediately suggested I contact my brother who is our family computer expert.
While I waited for his response, I began to take a minute to ponder. I realized why I had not shed a single tear or gotten too upset over my computer which I use quite often. It was just a possession. It was replaceable and in my case probably fixable. What would have mattered a great deal to me two weeks ago, was just a simple issue today.
I live on Staten Island which is a borough of New York City. If anyone has been paying attention to the latest news they will have heard and seen my hometown on the news for the past two weeks. For decades we were the "Forgotten Borough" but now we are on the news daily. It is fame that we would rather not have. Our island was hit very hard by the recent hurricane Sandy.
I have lived on this 14 mile long, 7 mile wide island for my entire life. My great grandparents left Ellis Island to settle here. It is a part of my history, the good and the bad. My favorite places here have always been anywhere near the water, which on an island is quite easy. We have shoreline that stretches the entire length of our island. There is a boardwalk that I just spent the entire summer walking everyday, stopping and giving homage to the ocean which I have always loved. I enjoy being near the water so much, my husband often states that we cannot live in a state where I cannot see the ocean, he fears that I would become depressed.
My grandfather instilled this love of the water in my life. He spent his days "down the beach" which translates to South and Midland beaches here on Staten Island. He was employed as a life guard with Harris Beach and also resided in a bungalow town on the beach with my grandmother and uncle. My mother would tell us about her grandfather's barber shops that ran along the boardwalk and her uncle Elmer's carousel that serviced people until the boardwalk suffered a devastating fire.
Our beach is somewhat different from what my grandparents enjoyed. It is not boardered with a bustling boardwalk, but rather a quite place where people go to exercise, walk, gaze at the water or enjoy a nice dinner at the restaurant or snacks at the snack bar. It is a stark contrast to the inland part of our island which is busy streets coupled with wooded areas and many parks. We are indeed a strange place. Beaches on the coast, woods inland, strip malls, movie theaters, parks everywhere a historic village in the center of the island, we are very unique, yet we are part of New York City. Even though we have our own beaches, Staten Islanders will often cross the bridges and journey to other beach areas, sometimes in New York or the nearby Jersey Shore.
Last week we were hit hard. Our coastal areas were pounded by Hurricane Sandy. Homes were leveled. Crushed, torn down to splinters. Personal items tossed to the wind, washed out to sea. Homes flooded, our citizens swimming for their lives, many climbing to the highest part of their house, some out to the roof of their homes. Some people drowned, we lost members of our community to this vicious force. Cars floating away and were violently tossed into homes and up on poles. Boats docked at our marinas are now blocking streets and in people's living rooms and front yards. Homes meticiously cared for, lives built for years, communities of friends and loved ones, torn apart in one single night. Inland, trees and utility poles were knocked down crushing people's homes and cars. Power was lost to almost all, many are just getting their power back. Some will be waiting longer. Many families are cold and homeless.
It is the most devastating hit our island has ever taken. On September 11, 2001, we lost so many lives. We suffered, we cried, we held each other tight. We held funerals and memorials services. But our land was not damaged. Our homes felt emptier, but there were still standing. This time there has been loss all around us. We cannot take a ferry and walk away from the wreckage. It is here, in our back yard,for some it IS our back and front yard. Over the bridge, the iconic Jersey Shoreline has also been forever altered. The damage stretches far and it is bad.
While we cry and mourn our losses, amazing things have been happening. Communities helping each other. Workers coming here from all over the country to help. They helped repair utilities and clean houses. They have brought and sent donations. Most people cleaned out their closets in the early days to find warm coats and sweaters they could spare to keep their shivering neighbors warm as the tempatures got colder. Many groups collected school supplies, made food, so many brought tools and cleaning supplies. Diapers and personal items were provided. Some shared information on social networking to get the word out. Some simply gave hugs and said prayers. Many donated money, even if it was only a small amount. Restaurant and deli owners and workers took to the streets to make sure everyone were fed. The Girl scouts made sandwiches and cleaned houses, the Boy Scouts provided first aid kits and also cleaned houses. So many schools, sport teams, church groups and just friends are coming each and everyday to do whatever they can. Those who cannot go, just give whatever they can. The outpouring is incredible. The famous and the rich have arrived or sent packages. Athletes have unloaded trucks and provided comfort.
Now the search for homes for those who do not have a home that will be fixed. Many were leveled to the ground, some were inspected and stated to be unsafe to occupy. People who have spent most of their lives in one place must now move on without anything familiar. They must start over whether they want to or not. Children have lost their toys, books, pictures, yearbooks, sports equipment, video games, computers and their security. Some have lost their parents and parents have lost their children. It is a devastating time in our history. But it also an amazing show of the spirit of giving. Of those who have selflessly given time,elbow grease, supplies, money, food and love.
So as I look at my broken laptop which my brother believes he can fix, I really don't care. I told my daughter who was sad and felt bad that this does not matter. That we are so lucky. We are together. We live in an area surrounded by trees. Those that fell, fell around our home, not on our home. We can see the water from our home. We climbed the hill and observed the water tanker that was pushed aground by the force of the surge. We carefully avoided the downed wires the day after the storm when we emerged with our neighbors to see what our clean up might be. We knew nothing of the fate of our beach neighbors since we had no phones, no electricity, no television,no internet not even on our phones, no newspapers and in the early days of the storm, Staten Island had not made the radio news. We stuck to our little dead street, cleaned and removed all the tree debis. Shared lunch and dinner with our neighbors, playing board games by candle light. Trying to cook our food before it spoiled. Bundling up at night because we had no heat. Boiling water to wash so our showers were not too cold. We slowly learned of what had happened to our shores and we were floored. We were shocked. We were sad.
We have friends and relatives who were directly affected. They lost much. Far more than anyone ever should. Their peaceful life at the beach, some in homes that had lasted many storms before Sandy, homes built by their grandparents, gone. Or water damaged waiting to be rebuilt and restored.
My 14 year old son peered out the window the first time we ventured to the beach to help. He saw the wreckage of the soccer fields he had played on all summer. One had the turf all destroyed, the other had turf rolled up like a throw rug. The power of the storm continued to show us how serious it was as we saw the wreckage of the restaurant my husband had proposed to me 22 years ago. Houses I grew up visiting torn from their foundations and tossed around like they were doll houses. People's lives on their front lawn, soaked with water and mud. The main youth soccer/football/baseball field littered with debris and holes and mangled soccer nets. Business after business shuttered and destroyed. People everywhere in need. People everywhere offering help. My daughter was grateful when she finally spoke to her dear friend who informed her that their car was washed away and they had a lot of water in their home, but they were all okay. We are forever grateful that our family who live there are safe and together, pets included. Others were not so lucky. The boardwalk in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, where we had gone as a family for the first time just this August is torn to pieces, it's roller coaster standing in the ocean. No words for what we are all seeing this side of the country. No words. Simply a change of attitude, a new way to think.
So no, I am not upset about my laptop. I am grateful that this is the only issue I have to handle right now in my personal life. This is an easy one.