Felice Shapiro is a writer, entrepreneur, and publisher as well as the founder of Better After 50, a weekly online magazine. In addition to being a teacher and avid runner, hiker, and yogi, she is an AARP contributor.
After Hurricane Sandy’s bluster died down, I felt a strong need to see my home in suburban New York. The problem was, I couldn’t get there for four days because of work in Boston. My friends had checked on the house so I knew it was fine, but there was still no power. They warned me not to come-no one had power except for one friend who was hosting sleepovers and dinners. It seemed incredible that Bill and I would leave the comfort of our heated condo in Boston and head to a land of no Internet, light or warmth, but we did.
Worrying from afar wasn’t working for me. The wrath of Sandy, frightening as it was, didn’t lessen my desire to be there. I wanted to be with my “people” from my hometown and experience Sandy with them; to battle the beast together. I felt too far away in Boston as the hurricane blew through, luckily missing us. (And of course I was happy for the people of Boston). But relying on TV, email, and texts to check on my friends and neighbors didn’t quite cut it.
So once Sandy was done with her screeching, we gassed up the tank and headed south, refueling in Connecticut knowing the gas lines would be killer in New York (and they were). As we started our journey, we felt like we were heading to a war zone and the enemy was Sandy. (Too sweet a name for a monster storm that had brought our community to a full stop).
We were struck by the darkness as we pulled into Larchmont. We navigated fallen trees and made our way around detours as we headed straight to the “Hurricane Commune” where our buddies were shacked up in the one house that had power. They were on Day 4 of sleepovers and group meals. When we arrived we were greeted by huge hugs, and Sandy war stories, and a group cooking scene that looked like they’d been living together seamlessly for years. It felt so good to have arrived to join our friends.
That first night, Bill and I slept in our dark, cold house grateful to be there and safe with a roof over our heads. We were no longer on the periphery and felt relieved to be home.
The next morning I met up with my two running buddies to tour the devastation.
First we checked out a tree that had fallen across my friend’s lawn. The roots of this enormous oak made it look like an angry monster from a children’s book that was crying as its powers melted away. My eyes welled up while the 100-year-old oak lay with its guts splayed across the lawn. Miraculously it had left my friend’s house unscathed.
Next we headed to our beloved Manor Park on Long Island Sound. The sun was stunningly bright and the waters calm, but we were shaken by what we saw.
Fences along the water’s edge were ripped and thrown clear across the park and sea walls had crumbled like dust. 200-pound slabs of granite that were once our resting benches at the harbor’s edge were lifted clear off their bases. The three of us examined the benches like scuba divers with snorkels: garbling our words as we gasped and nodded to one another. We pointed and observed. This scene of raw beauty and brutal destruction was breathtaking. The sand had been smoothed by the retreating tide and looked like a raked Caribbean beach, safe and inviting. Next to it was a grouping of five trees, toppled on their sides-a woven horizontal forest laid to its final rest. Beauty and horror inter-meshed.
I subscribe to the theory that nature self corrects. Forests burn to make way for new life but this devastation was hard to digest. The larger message is ominous.