Two days after the storm someone who does not live in NYC or NJ suggested to me that I (and others) were only inconvenienced by Sandy, that our current struggles did not compare to fighting terminal illness or other world-ending catastrophes. I have been feeling much the same, that I am only inconvenienced and thankful for that, as I see my local area become more and more distressed about being cold, and dark...and inconvenienced.
I know that many of us are thankful that we are not among those who lost homes, towns, or loved ones. But I also want to validate that areas of NJ besides the shore are dealing with major consequences, and for some people it will be world altering.
My town did not flood. Very few homes were damaged during the storm. But high winds and trees did incredible damage. In a 3-mile stretch between my house and town, at least 12 poles need to be replaced before any hope of power can be restored. This power line feeds our grocery store and shopping center, which houses several small, local businesses. It probably won't be fixed for another 10-12 days.
Our inability to get groceries, gas, and other essentials, coupled with the angst of being cold, disconnected, and dark, has turned into public panic. I've even heard stories of guns at gas stations.
We need to drive farther to get food, which means we need more gas. The state has begun rationing gas, with 1970s-style alternate day, limited filling. So driving farther has become more difficult. For many, working has also become a problem. Many stores and restaurants in my town cannot open. The owners' livelihoods are at stake. For those who earn commission or hourly wages and cannot get to work because of power or gas shortages - their livelihoods are at stake.
I am thankful that my family and I made it through the storm with only inconveniences. We can drive 45 minutes to another state to buy gas, and we can find an open bank and grocery store on the way home. My kids will get back to school eventually, and it's ok if they don't have a spring break, or any break, or if they go to school till mid July (and all of these are possibilities). My husband (who works on commission) and I (who cannot take the train to the city) will fill up our tanks out-of-state and drive to our workplaces, both of which have power. We will be cold, and dark, and disconnected for up to 2 more weeks, but the power company will work nonstop until we are up and running. Our world is different, and not in a good way, but it did not end.
I know many in my state whose world has ended. I know many others for whom this situation will be life-altering. I'm worried about all of them and about the lasting consequences of this storm. But I also know that for me, personally, this is just an inconvenience.
For anyone who can, please donate your time or money to help those who are more than inconvenienced. The Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org) needs donations, and one of my former students has started a website to coordinate volunteers (http://www.njstrong.net/).