Hurricane Sandy Checklist: Love Thy Neighbor

Every week in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.

When I wrote about Hurricane Irene last year, I thought I’d stumbled upon a unique topic, at least given my geographical position. The path of Hurricane Sandy is proving me woefully wrong, and my area is gearing up for a storm of epic proportions, one predicted to be even more ferocious than Irene. My home state of New York is in a state of emergency, along with all the other states from North Carolina to Connecticut. While preparations are underway, many areas still have not recovered from last year’s hurricane; when my family went for a fall-foliage train ride a few weekends ago, we saw lingering damage to the creek and forested area, and the tracks were impassable in places. A nearby road is closed because the crews were finally able to get to the section that collapsed from Irene’s erosive work. I think the crews have been a bit busy. I still remember watching the fire trucks travel around our town to pump out people’s flooded homes. What will Sandy bring?

My husband and I are trying to prepare our three-year old for the storm: no electricity means no internet, no movies, no music, no lights. I imagine us lighting candles and playing with flashlights and watching the rain fall. It’s neither so cold nor so hot that I’m concerned about the safety of my infant; we lost power for three days when my eldest was four-months old, and we had to evacuate during a blizzard. It’s the stuff of family lore, but pretty stressful while living out the story. For us, the list of things we’ll lose is likely to be temporary and minor. We may go for a little while without power, but we’ll stay home and keep safe. With our store of provisions and our active imaginations, it’s possible the storm could even be fun. A pretend pioneer life that we get to return from with renewed appreciation for our many modern conveniences.

That is less likely to be the case for many of the people now waiting in Sandy’s path. Coastal areas are already anticipating (if not experiencing) significant damage. Homes are being evacuated; before Sandy rests, there is likely to be significant loss of lives and property. Lots of damage. Another year (or more) of cleanup, repair, and then, who knows what next year will bring? I’ve been watching The Weather Channel a bit obsessively. Most of the page is red, covered with bold headlines like “Last Chance for Millions to Prepare for Sandy” and “Monster Storm Wreaks 800 Miles of Havoc.” The news continues to warn that Sandy will be more ferocious, more destructive than Irene. But the icon that stands out the most to me right now is the “See Friends at Risk” button, where out-of-towners can check up on their loved ones along the East Coast. The Red Cross has also provided a number of checklists for before, during, and after the storm. Right now, it’s a waiting game—all of the anxiety and anticipation turned toward the coast and a storm bent on whirling our way.

I feel relatively peaceful about the storm’s approach, knowing that we’re as prepared as we can be and likely to be safe. Even many of my immediate neighbors cannot say the same—those with very small children, the elderly, those who live alone, even those who fail to prepare. Emergency situations require preparedness beforehand and the acting out of our faith during and afterward, to show our love for our neighbors as we do for ourselves. That means checking on neighbors, especially those who live alone or lack nearby friends and family to check on them. It means sharing provisions and resources and assisting each other in cleanup. It means attending to the physical needs as well as the emotional ones, to help each other through the alienation and loneliness of the modern world in a power outage. It means praying, for all those in the path of Sandy, for safety and peace. My prayers go with all of you and your families, because by the time this post shows up on Tuesday morning, I’ll probably be off the grid.

About Erin Wyble Newcomb

Erin Wyble Newcomb earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and Women's Studies from Penn State University. In addition to parenting her daughters, running marathons, and making things with glitter, she teaches in the English Department at SUNY New Paltz. Follow Erin on Twitter @ErinWyble or at http://phdmama.com/.