Technically, Sandy was not a hurricane when it trundled ashore near Atlantic City, N.J., but the scientific technicalities did not matter to the storm, the property it destroyed or the people it left devastated. Call it a hurricane, a tropical storm or just a “superstorm,” call it anything you want. I’d call it something unprintable, but I’ll settle for calling it a bitch.
I live in Connecticut and we didn’t get the worst of Superstorm Sandy – unlike last year, when we suffered the brunt of Hurricane Irene last year. I was without power for 24 hours, which seems trivial compared to the ills suffered by so many others. My town was mostly blacked out and the streets were littered with trees and fallen wires – nothing unusual for extreme storms around here. But I work in New York City, and that great metropolis has been battered by nature with an unprecedented fury. The only bright side is that most of the storm’s ill effects were property damage, and not loss of life. While the death toll is way too high (and, sadly, mounting), it could have been so much worse.
I haven’t seen Manhattan so dark since the Northeast Blackout of 2003, when I was trapped in the city by that power outage and got to see stars over New York City for the first time ever. I was lucky enough to not be in Manhattan for Sandy, but now I’m in the position of a powerless observer, watching the neighborhood where I work overcome by flood waters. Right now, I’m looking at TV report on lower Manhattan showing the buildings pitch black while electrical crews feverishly pump water out of the South Ferry subway station, not far from the Staten Island Ferry terminal.
The surveys of damage in the wake of the storm as heartbreaking. News crews scattered from southern New Jersey to eastern Connecticut all tend to describe the damage as something like a battlefield, with buildings so thoroughly destroyed that it looks like the storm had intelligence and knew what it was doing. Some towns and houses along the Jersey Shore are now filled with sand – not water, sand – as if they had been built below the tide line.
I haven’t been to the boardwalk at Seaside Heights, N.J., since I as a child, but to see images of it now, broken into matchsticks, brings back a flood of memories that leave me shattered. All that is gone now – except for what I and others remember of it. I’m certain it will be rebuilt, but it won’t be the same. It won’t be the boardwalk my little brother and I walked with our parents.
The greatest city in the world will come back. The water will be pumped out, the damage repaired and the people will return. Although things look bleak now, in due time Sandy will take its place as just another of the terrible historical events that, blended with the good, make up the legacy of the capital of the world, New York.