This was going to be a tongue-in-cheek column relating Hurricane Sandy to the gods of the seas, Poseidon, Nerthus, and Neptune, taking our minds off of the political campaigns, at least for a while. Somehow I was going to get All Hallows' Eve into the mix. But not now.
It is now 11:30 p.m. Monday eve. Watching Nightline’s reports and knowing the region from Cape May, N.J., to Montauk Point, N.Y., I am now very worried about family and friends along the coastline. Friends in the Baltimore suburbs are being pummeled by the storm and resulting floods.
As of Tuesday morning, my parents in Old Westbury are without power and don't expect it for at least two days. My sister was stuck in Virginia because of the snowstorms. My cousins in Egg Harbor, N.J., are OK but have some damage to their home and car from blowing sand. I'm still waiting to hear from other family members in the region.
Yes, the storm is taking our minds off the political circus, but the sinking of the H.M.S. Bounty, with one dead and one missing, flooding in one-half of New York City, evacuations of hundreds from NYU Medical Center, and fires at 80 to 100 homes in Rockaway, which was the scene of an American Airlines Airbus A300 accident just after 9/11 and tornadoes earlier this year, somehow changed my mind.
This is no time for levity, especially from me, with so many people I know and love in the path of this superstorm.
The first problem with disasters like Sandy, or forest fires in Colorado, or earthquakes in California, is that the strength of understanding and empathy for what is happening on the ground, the sense of the disaster and devastation — even when watching on television or the Internet — is reduced exponentially with the distance from ground zero. Even in my case, though I have family in the path of the storm and know the landscape well, I had a hard time understanding until this evening.
The second problem is understanding the devastation. This is not the beginning of the Apocalypse or the Rapture. It is like New Yorkers not understanding the devastation of flooding of the Missouri or Mississippi rivers; it's just too far away. We in the Midwest have empathy and will donate food and money to provide relief as we did after Hurricane Katrina.
Seeing the pictures of the famed boardwalk in Atlantic City destroyed brings me back to more pleasant pre-casino days memories when the city was better known as the streets of Monopoly. Of cotton candy and salt water taffy, not glitter shows and betting. Of walking the wooden causeway searching for the pier where we could watch the horse making its high dive into a gigantic pool.
Yes, those days are long gone, as were the glory days of Coney Island, but seeing the last remnants of memories being ripped away bring images of death of another landmark and memories.
I really thought the post-tropical cyclone was not going to be that bad. I have lived through a few category 1 and 2 hurricanes. I have seen the famed Jones Beach washed away and then replaced by the diligent crews of the New York state parks department. We had a fruit tree torn from our backyard one year. This storm could not be that bad.
Speaking with my dad Sunday morning brought more calm than reality. Dad is not one to be defeated by a "little storm" that would not hit the Island directly. "We hadn't any rain," he told me at 5 in the afternoon. "It won't be so bad." So much for his pseudo-scientific predictions.
I do not remember the subways in Manhattan flooded. I remember power outages, but the worst was in 1965 when the entire East Coast was turned off when transmission lines were overloaded.
This storm is affecting me because the East Coast, New York City and Long Island are home. It might be 1,100 miles away, but right now, that is where I am.
The good news is that Americans are a hardy bunch, and those in the Tri-State region will survive, rebuild and tell stories to their grandkids.
My family's welfare is paramount. Damn the elections, this is more important.