At 6 p.m. last Sunday, I tore off two layers of plastic sheeting covering the double doors that separate my upstairs living room from my ground-level family room, which are connected by a simple pine staircase. It was a triumphal moment. Then a memory suddenly flashed through my mind.
At around 10 p.m. on Oct. 29, as Hurricane Sandy bore down on Long Island, murky brown water reached nearly the top of the staircase between the two rooms, destroying all that was in the family room –– and the laundry room, crawl space and garage. I’ll never forget staring down at all that water and thinking that my wife and I were about to lose our home.
We didn’t, thank goodness. And last Sunday, with our kids seated on our living-room couch, we held a brief, informal ceremony to officially reopen our downstairs family room, which was bone-dry, cleared of any trace of water vapor by two oversized dehumidifiers.
We redid the room, with a new staircase, tile floor and walls. My wife, Katerina, stained the staircase on Sunday, the final touch in an exhausting reconstruction process. Then the plastic, which shielded the rest of the house from construction dust and fumes, came down.
My wife and I did part of the reconstruction work –– rip-out, mostly. We needed five subcontractors to finish it.
We were fortunate. There are so many around us who are only starting to rebuild. Some are still ripping out molded drywall and floorboards.
My wife and I are thankful that all of our family members and friends are all right –– healthy, that is –– after Long Island’s “storm of the century.” We may have been storm victims, but we feel blessed.
Getting through Sandy and its aftermath, though, was tough. One of the hardest parts was the sense of helplessness you experience. I felt overwhelmed by the destruction to my home. I wanted to help other storm victims, but I couldn’t. I had no time or energy.
Reporting on Sandy and its wake for the Herald, I witnessed destruction nearly every day. On Thanksgiving, my wife and I took the kids to dinner at my aunt’s house in Stony Brook. She served a bountiful meal. Somehow, though, it didn’t quite feel like Thanksgiving with our home –– and our lives –– in disarray.