November 15, 2012 at 8:54 AM
It’s been two weeks since Hurricane Sandy left a horrendous path of destruction along the East Coast, but countless families are still reeling from the aftermath — including my own.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss home. I miss Penn State. I miss my friends. I miss good Chinese food. I miss my iPhone. I miss my parents. I miss my dog.
But despite missing these things while studying abroad, nothing prepared me for how I felt when I heard about the damage Sandy left on Long Island — the damage Sandy left on my family.
I didn't long for any of those things anymore; I longed to be home.
I’ve lived on Long Island, in a small town about a half hour outside of New York City, my entire life. My family recently packed up my childhood home and moved about 10 minutes away to a temporary house on the water (my parents only planned on living in this house for one year before moving to a permanent house in another part of Long Island).
For several years, all I have heard my parents talk about was that they wanted to live on the water. When that dream finally became a reality about a month ago, we couldn’t have been happier.
Little did my parents know that that dream would soon be shattered by a ferocious and deadly storm called Sandy.
When I first learned about the hurricane before it hit, I didn’t worry too much. I, along with many people affected, did not expect what Sandy would be. No one could prepare for the damage it left in its path.
The day before the storm was planning to touch down on Long Island, my parents received a mandatory evacuation order from our town’s mayor.
Now things were starting to get serious.
They went down to the local beach and filled sandbags, propping them up against all the doors of my house and the garage, where boxes upon boxes filled with our personal possessions were being stored from after the move.
They left my house and went down the street to a local hotel where they thought they would be staying for a night or two. They would soon find out that they would have to stay there for at least one month.
After Sandy hit, my parents returned to our house to find 39 inches of flood water in the bottom level of my house, where mine and my sister’s rooms were located.
They found furniture toppled over, clothes floating in water; mud and sand caked the walls.
After someone came to the house to assess the damage, my parents were given the bad news.
The entire bottom floor would have to be gutted and it would be a month before they could move back in. All of this happened just three weeks after my parents moved into this house in the first place.
I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for families to learn about the fate of their homes, some severely damaged and some completely destroyed. But, I certainly know how I felt being hundreds of thousands of miles away.
I felt helpless in the sense that I couldn’t drive back home to assist my mom and dad in cleanup efforts; I felt helpless when I couldn’t communicate with my parents since they had no power for weeks; I felt helpless knowing that they didn’t want to upset me by divulging every way that Sandy ruined our home.
And I couldn’t even begin prepare myself for everything they were about to reveal.
Most of the things in my room were destroyed. Hundreds of personal photographs were damaged. My dad’s childhood memories — including yearbooks, fourth grade report cards, art projects from elementary school — that were stored in a box in the garage — gone. Furniture passed down through generations in my family, gone. Important notes and documents, gone.
Despite knowing that I would never see many of my personal belongings again, the biggest shock of all was learning that my house had been looted.
“Looted?!” I shouted at my mom after she told me. “How could we have been looted?! We live in a safe area!”
I had heard about looting happening in other areas, but it never even crossed my mind that it could happen to my little town on Long Island—that it could happen to my family.
I guess that detail upset me the most because it’s hard to accept learning that several people entered my home, taking advantage of a forced evacuation order, and ransacked it.
I am well aware that things could have been a lot worse. I have seen the photographs of the destruction in New Jersey, Queens, New York City and other areas.
I know that I am extremely lucky that my parents are safe and that my house wasn’t in complete ruins, but it still hurts immensely to learn about the severe damage and pain this storm has caused my family. It also doesn’t help matters that I’m currently in another country and not returning home for another month.
The future for many families affected by Hurricane Sandy is going to be dim for a while. It’s going to take time to rebuild and recover from what has been called the biggest and most destructive storm to ever hit the East Coast.
But, if there’s one definitive thing I’ve learned in my life so far, it’s that this country is filled with people who care about helping others and people who are determined that we can and will bounce back after destruction hits home.
During these past few weeks, I may have lost many things that are important to me, but the things that are most significant still remain.
The outpouring of kindness and support from family, friends and strangers that not only I, but other victims of this hurricane have received, gives me hope that everyone will survive and move past this horrible disaster. It's just going to take some time.