Archive for November, 2012

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Sandy: Reporting And Living The Storm

November 14, 2012

This blog is normally dedicated to the arts and entertainment aspect of my career. Specifically, the magazine program which I host and produce, “ON THE SCENE.”

However, on October 29th my focus shifted to covering the worst natural disaster I have ever witnessed: Hurricane Sandy.

Every day since this monster storm of wind and water barreled onto the New Jersey coast, surged through tidal rivers, and ripped down a maze of power lines plunging hundreds of communities into darkness and cold…each day…I have reported on the destruction, heartbreak, misery and loss of so many of the state’s residents.

I’ve interviewed people as they returned to see their homes, or what’s left of them, for the first time…the moment when all hope that they might, just might have a home to return to, is lost. Just today I met an 82 year old woman, Bobbi,  who walked for a half hour…on crutches…to make a bus carrying residents to the barrier island community of Normandy Beach. Nothing could keep her from seeing what’s become of her home of 40 years.

I’ve seen the tears of homeowners, splattered in mud as they scrubbed the dirt and sand from the living rooms where their family once gathered, as they describe what it is to lose every possession they own.

I’ll never forget the heart transplant patient, Laren, salvaging board games and pulling busted furniture from her family room which was crushed by three falling pine trees. I remember her crying, “I don’t know how I’m going to make it.”

I met a woman in Keansburg who was grateful for her life yet so grief stricken she could barely speak: her cat was found entangled and drowned in a box spring.

In Union Beach, a working class community on the Raritan Bay, we (News 12 New Jersey)  became the first television news crew allowed to videotape the devastated waterfront up close.  I stood where 50 houses once stood. Just piles of splintered wood now.  And twice that number of homes will have to be torn down, uninhabitable.

And day after day and and night upon night, the power did not come back  for so many. I met a couple…the Kreiders… and their ten day old baby girl, Haddie.  They  weren’t able to bring their newborn home. No heat, no hot water, and two trees laying on the roof of their house.

These have been difficult days for me. I cannot bring back someone’s home or beloved pet. I do not always have the answers to the myriad urgent questions about insurance and FEMA and contractors. My job is to document, to tell their stories and to make sure their voice is heard.

Difficult, too, was coming home after 12 and 16 hour work days to a dark, freezing home. I didn’t have power for 8 going on 9 days. There was no avoiding it. Hotels were booked solid, friends were also without power. It sure didn’t take long for candlelight to lose its charm. Nights were getting colder, below 30 degrees a couple of nights.  When I put a flashlight in front of me I could see my breath. On the 8th night, in bed under three heavy blankets with a wall  of robes and wool coats on top of that, I curled up and actually thought I would die of hypothermia before the sun came up.

Then, at 2:24 AM I was awaken by the screeching of heating pipes, ceiling fans were suddenly turning, the refrigerator was humming. Yes, the power was back. And life didn’t feel in the balance.

Through it all, I have counted myself among the luckiest. Now, 15 days after the storm, thousands of people are still living without electricity. Others are spending this night in a shelter knowing that their next home may be a FEMA trailer. And some who endured unbearable losses are grieving a mother, father, sister or brother who didn’t survive.

As time goes on, I know I will see the changes this storm has created in me, and I can tell there will be many…as a journalist, a human being, a survivor.

What I am sure of right now is that tomorrow there will be another family, another community, whose story needs to be told.  And we will be there to make sure their voice is heard.

 

 

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