Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Oh Sandy:

Like many in north-east United States this week, this Aussie mum in Brooklyn baked and waited.
By Anita Bulan
Date: November 02 2012
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Lucia’s depiction of Sandy

A hurricane was coming, they said. It will be much worse than Hurricane Irene last year, they said. Oh, I’ll ride it out, others said. I’m nervous, I said.

We thought we had it all figured out by doing our grocery shopping on Saturday morning, 48 hours before Sandy was timed to arrive. It turns out half of Brooklyn had the same idea.

A last-minute run to the bodega (in Australia, this would be the local milk bar or deli) on the corner (“I’m staying open through this as long as I have customers!”) for two half-gallons of milk was the last step. We were stocked: water (including in the bath and in a few buckets), milk, lots of fresh food, wine for days, and multiple blocks of chocolate.

It turns out there’s something about a big storm that drives people to cook. It seemed to be consistent among friends: baking of pies, loaves of bread, pizza, roasts, fall vegetables. And lots of wine. Always lots of wine. If we were going to be stuck inside for days after our final venture outdoors on Sunday afternoon, we were going to eat well, dammit.

My toddler, Lucia, was most concerned about why she wasn’t going to preschool on Monday. Could she ride her bike in the park? What about going to the pool? Instead, I sat her down with some art supplies and asked her to paint what she thought the hurricane looked like. It was a perfect representation — angry purple, swirling around and around, with no discernable beginning or end. She’s three years old, but she got it.

We hunkered down for the rest of Monday, listening to updates that forecast Sandy’s landfall on the New Jersey coast at around 7 or 8 PM that evening. There was nothing else to do but wait.

I heard what sounded like a motor or generator rumbling, but it wasn’t until a couple of hours later — and an increase in speed of about 30 miles per hour — that I realized it was the wind rushing through our building. It was an eerie sound, especially when coupled with the trees, out there in the dark, leaning over outside our window.

I managed to put Lucia to bed at a relatively normal hour, around 8.30pm. The last thing she said to me before she fell asleep was “What’s the weather like tomorrow, mama?”

A while later, something flashed out the window. Lightning? Unlikely. A quick look online confirmed it was the electrical transformer 20 blocks away exploding. We waited to lose power after that. But, bar some flickering lights, that never happened.

So we continued to sit on our sofa, all pieces of electrical equipment plugged into an outlet. Two cell phones, a Kindle Fire, an iPod Touch, and a computer. Twitter, Facebook, an emergency police/fire/ambulance scanner app, CNN, NY1 (the local news network), FOX, and MSNBC were our lifeline to what was happening out there. In retrospect, driving myself to near tears because of yet another frightening photo I saw on Twitter, this wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but it was hard to pull away. Just one more refresh, just a few more minutes on the crackling scanner, just another cut to a journalist standing in surge waters being blown around by 90-mile-per-hour winds.

Texts back and forth between friends included some rather disconcerting “Don’t text or call. No power. Stuck at work. Can’t charge phone.” replies. It wasn’t until close to 1am when New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the worst was over that we could finally breathe out.

We were lucky. Many people weren’t so fortunate. Some people died, including, heartbreakingly, a two year old and four year old when their mother lost hold of them as they tried to escape surging seawater. You could not even imagine.

While we were spared flooding and maintained our electricity supply, friends— and strangers — elsewhere fared much worse. We are now home to a Manhattan refugee who won’t have power until at least Sunday, almost a week after the storm hit.  Food, water, and gas are running low everywhere.

Lucia, meanwhile, is still most concerned for her dear “Aunty” sleeping on our sofa.

“When will the man come and fix your lights that Sandy broke?” she asks.

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