It’s Not Time to Return to Normal: A Personal Account of Sandy’s Aftermath

A backyard in Staten Island—reduced to a swamp

  • A backyard in Staten Island—reduced to a swamp

I’m writing this roughly a week after Sandy hit us. I’m sitting in my college library, typing up papers and being annoyed by people that are noisy. Though not all of them are back in service, the trains are running again. The MTA is charging us again. Everything is normal. Except that everything is not. People are punching each other out for gas. People are lacking power, heat, water, gas; some people are without their clothes or their homes. Some people are without loved ones. On the one hand, I’m happy to return to normalcy because being stuck in my home, watching the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy made me restless and like I was going insane. But then I remember that some people don’t even have homes to be stuck in, and I feel even worse.

I live in Sheepshead Bay, on the 6th floor of a co-op building that wasn’t really affected. We had a minor power outage the day after Sandy for a few hours and had to survive without TV and Internet for 2-3 days. I got off lucky. On Monday night, in the midst of Sandy, my husband and I started receiving frantic calls from his parents who had decided not to evacuate from their Zone A home in Staten Island. I understand the need for evacuation, but I don’t condemn them for this. Everyone wants to try and stay in his or her own home and wait it out. [Ed. Note: Thousands of people who had been told to evacuate for Hurricane Irene, stayed in their homes without having any trouble. It is easy to understand why they thought the circumstances wouldn’t be so different.] Soon, though, the water was so high that both of their cars were covered. Their beautiful three-floor house was being flooded. The first floor was quickly flooded to the ceiling and then water rose to the second floor too. They were trying to reach 911 with no success and their phones were dying. So we all started calling 911. I had to call about twice and each time I waited roughly 7-10 minutes. The woman on the other end couldn’t give me an estimate on when there would be someone available to go there. My husband was starting to panic. I started to brace myself for the possibility that he may lose his parents (and his 6 year-old sister) that night—almost half of all the people that died in New York as a result of Hurricane Sandy died on Staten Island. Luckily through some social networking, texting, and calling, someone was able to get in touch with the FDNY and—30 minutes later—my husband’s parents and sister were saved through one of their windows by an FDNY boat.


  1. Eszter, thank you for writing such a lovely piece and sharing your story. It’s funny to hear you talking about your husband because you have such a youthful voice in your writing. I live in Staten Island and have a similar story to your inlaws. Seeing that picture of the mud on their first floor resonates with me so much because I cleaned that same contaminated mud a few days ago. What is normal now? I just hope everyone keeps up the momentum of working together and volunteering to help those that were really unlucky and lost so much. It’s going to take more than a week or even months to recover fully. I hope you and your family stay safe and warm especially after today’s new storm.


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