When I thought I might have to leave my house, I put on fishing waders over full-body, ninja-style long johns.
When the tide finally turned, I hung out my living room window and watched my town float out to sea. I saw a refrigerator sail by on its back, the door bobbing open and closed. I saw a lot of Halloween decorations sail by. The highlight of this frightening flotilla was what looked like a Howdy Doody head on a hay bale that screamed past and briefly convinced me that I was living in an actual nightmare. The image of that head so vexed me that I searched the wetlands north of my house for an hour to find it (see photo).
The damage to my house was massive. The middles of my rooms remained mostly dry, but the edges were all soaked — the way a piece of paper would become wet from the edges in if it fell on a puddle. All my systems were ruined: the heat, the electricity, the boiler — and they remain inoperable as I write this. The smell was, and still is, horrific, and I was forced to stand in my bedroom at one point and listen to the flood gurgling inexorably up through the radiators. It was scary and smelly and it made me feel small and helpless.
Stories are my vocation and my currency. I have borne all manner of hardship to gather stories worth retelling. Sandy, however, is not a tale I’ll be breaking out around a crackling fire years from now; it was too harsh, too much mine.
It is, inarguably, important to cover stories like this, but I prefer to be the newsman casting light on the event, not the guy shoveling half his life into contractor bags. I understand why I stayed for Sandy, but I also understand why I wouldn’t do it again. I may cover another hurricane someday, but next time it will be someone else’s storm.