There is an image of Superstorm Sandy –– or, rather, its aftermath –– that is seared in my mind: I’m driving a rented black Jeep, rounding a bend in the road near my home in south Merrick. Suddenly, it hits me. Darkness consumes my neighborhood.
I stop to take it in. My hometown seems empty and motionless. I see an occasional flashlight beam bouncing across a windowpane, a sign of life, but there is nothing more.
I look to the sky. The stars are so abundant. I have never seen them like that from my home. The streetlights normally block their glare, but there they are, in all their glory.
I can’t stop for long, however. My wife and children are at home waiting for me. I’m returning from a long day at work at the Herald. They’ve been home all day, because school has been canceled. My wife, a teacher, and my kids, both students, have nowhere to go. They are cold and scared, so I must hurry.
I arrive home. The temperature inside hovers at around 50 degrees. Everyone is bundled up in coats, woolen hats and socks, curled up on the living-room couch, covered in blankets, flashlights by their sides, turned off to preserve batteries. A hand-crank lantern in the middle of the coffee table illuminates the room.
We had never before felt so alone.
As Sandy’s anniversary, Oct. 29, approached this week, a rush of memories came surging back. Our home was devastated in the storm. Here’s what I wrote in my first column after it, “Long Island, my home, even after Hurricane Sandy,” published in last year’s Nov. 13-20 Herald:
“Katerina and I have lived on the South Shore for two decades. Our home, like thousands of others, was flooded by Sandy. In the early morning shortly after the storm subsided, we were sitting on our living-room couch, wondering what we should do next. The downstairs family room was still covered in seaweed and three inches of saltwater –– after the water level had reached 3½ feet during the storm, coming within inches of our main floor. One of our Subarus was still sitting in our driveway, but the other was in our neighbor’s yard, immobilized by the torrent of seawater that rushed through our south Merrick neighborhood. Both vehicles were totaled.”