My heart goes out to the residents of Louisiana who have been impacted by the flooding this month. i know exactly hope they feel and I am saddened that so many people are now experiencing the same devastating effects of flooding that many of us here in Long Beach experienced as a result of Superstorm Sandy, nearly four years ago. This storm wreaked havoc on the lives of residents across the coast financially, emotionally, and spiritually. A short drive through the town will reveal that many residents are still picking up the pieces of their life and fighting to restore and rebuild their homes. Long after the media stops reporting on the effects of the flooding, there are hundreds of people still suffering...they are trying to rebuild their homes, perhaps struggling financially and emotionally and many even suffer from ptsd. They deal with the constant frustration of dealing with the red tape of insurance companies and government assistance programs. If you feel you can help the victims of the flooding in anyway, please do so. The following contains a link with various ways that you can help. http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/14/us/iyw-louisiana-flooding-victims-help/index.html
I rarely talk about this experience in my life because it all seems so surreal to me. Nevertheless, in the light of the recent flooding that has occurred, I feel compelled to write about my experience.
At the time of the storm, I was about six weeks away from welcoming my first daughter into the world and I had just celebrated my baby shower with family and friends. My husband and I spent the year updating our charming original Long Beach bungalow and with the exception of completing our daughter's nursery, we were just about done with the renovations. As new expecting parents, we were on an emotional high feeling giddy with anticipation of meeting our little girl. We couldn't wait to finally relax in our home and enjoy bonding with her. Little did we know that a super storm brewing in the distance would thwart those plans.
When we heard about Superstorm Sandy, we took all of the precautionary measures; we boarded up the windows, brought in our outdoor furniture, elevated a few valuables and got ready to evacuate. I packed up a few days worth of clothes, packed some irreplaceable family heirlooms and prepared to evacuate to my mother's home. As we drove away, I was filled with fear and sadness....what would become of our home? Where would we go if it was destroyed? Would I go into labor during the storm and if so, how in the world would I get to the hospital?
Once we reached my mother's home, I felt a bit settled. My mom had a generator, cooked enough hearty Italian meals to feed the nation, and my brother and wife, who live on a canal in Babylon, were also staying at the house. At first, it felt like a care free sleep over party, that is until we started watching the news and the gravity of the situation began to resonate with us. The media depicted an ominous view of our town. The ocean was menacing and appeared to be gnarling at the streets, there was flooding in the town and the peak of the storm was not to hit until the middle of the night. I went to bed that night filled with dread. I imagined our home slowly filling with water destroying all of our hard work, money, and most importantly, memories. Then, there was the waiting....waiting to hear the news...what had become of our town? our home? Waiting to evaluate the destruction of our house and to see what our future held for us.
The morning after the storm was filled with more waiting. We were pacing the halls waiting to hear what had happened to our home and late that afternoon, we decided to make the trip back to Long Beach to find out. Because I was pregnant, my husband and my parents did not want me to go, but I had to see the destruction for myself. I could not be at ease until I knew for sure...knew what had become of our home and what life I would be bringing my daughter into. We drove to Long Beach via Long Beach Road and as we entered Oceanside, my heart sank. There were boats in the middle of the road, debris from homes scattered everywhere, and buildings and homes severely damaged. I can't fully articulate what I saw, but it resembled a scene straight out of a doomsday film. Once we turned onto Park Avenue and entered Long Beach, the extent of the damage became a reality. I remember seeing pieces of the boardwalk along the street, sand everywhere, cars washed up onto the road and median. I started to cry....I could not believe what I was seeing. The more I saw, the more I was convinced that our home would not be standing once we arrived.
When we finally got to our block, like all of Long Beach, our block too was covered in sand and debris. There were cars washed up on the sidewalk, but from the outside, it seemed that our house was in tact. As we walked up the front steps to our home, my heart was pounding out of my chest, I was holding back tears and I could barely breathe. I was not ready to see the destruction, but at the same time, I knew that I had to walk through that door. After what felt like an eternity, Tim opened the door and we walked into the house. The house was so cold and we could barely see because there was no electric and the windows were still boarded up, but with the guidance of the one beacon of light shining from Tim's iPhone, we could see that our home was still there; yes, it was severely damaged, but it was salvageable...we gasped at the sight, held each other and considered ourselves fortunate. I know many others who were not as lucky.
I have a very limited recollection of the weeks that followed. I was so close to delivering my daughter and I tried to suppress my fears, emotions and thoughts for the sake of my baby. I was working full time as a teacher, trying to deal with the aftermath of the storm, and living out of a suitcase in my mother's home. Although living with my parents was a tremendous comfort, all I wanted was my own bed in my own home. I wanted to enjoy those last moments of being an expectant mother, nest and get my home ready for my baby, but that was not the reality of the situation. I felt homeless and lost and I felt like my daughter would be subjected to the same fate. No matter what I did, I couldn't relax or get my thoughts in order and I couldn't psychologically prepare myself to welcome a child into the world. Everything in my world just felt out of order and chaotic.
My husband, along with family, and friends. worked diligently around the clock to get us back into our home before our daughter was born. It seemed unlikely that we would be back in time for her birth and I tried to reassure myself that it didn't matter if we were not home, what mattered was that she would soon be here, but it was about so much more than just being in a house; it was about feeling secure in my ability to be a parent. I have always been a planner and an organizer, so for things to be so out of my control, I felt that I was doomed to fail in my role as a mother. Tim must have felt the same way because he also was determined to give our little girl her home and by the grace of God he was able to do so. In fact, we moved back into our home the day I came home from the hospital with my daughter. We were fortunate enough to live there with her for a few months before moving out again to lift and elevate our home.
The repairs we made to our home were temporary and a year later, we moved out again to elevate our home and properly repair and renovate our home. This time, we would be out of our home for nearly a year. I was pregnant with our second daughter at the time and better prepared to handle the stress of the move. When we finally moved back home at the end of May 2015, we were a family of four, blessed with two beautiful girls. Our home is still not fully renovated and there is much to be done, but we are too busy making memories with our little girls to care or notice. We are just grateful to be home and although the journey to get here was long and arduous, what matters is we are here to stay.