GrowMama Roundup: Reflections on Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy came down fast and furious.  We know it affected millions of people, even those that did not live in its’ direct path.  The destruction was widespread, and many estimate it will cost billions of dollars.  But we know its’ real cost will exceed any dollar amount.  Just ask the family who lost the bottom floor of their house and all their cars and are still living in a shelter days later.  Or the retired couple who lost the dream home they built on the Jersey Shore.

We asked Grow Mama readers to share their experiences on Hurricane Sandy with us.

After almost a week without heat or power, you become truly thankful for the normal everyday things we are blessed with. For us, it was somewhat of an adventure trying to be tactful with limited resources, like lighting my gas stove “fireplace” when it got unbearable.  A generous neighbor let us share his generator for a few rationed hours from sunset onwards, until the lights flickered out.  While I worried about charging my iPhone, iPad, and laptop to continue working, others around the world worry about their kids feeling the pangs of hunger or being another war casualty.  I can’t imagine how there are many people for whom this temporary experience is the least of their worries in their normal every day.

– Amani, Springfield, NJ

I was safe in Northern Virginia during Sandy, where we were blessed to have a big pre-storm scare that ended well for us, with no loss of electricity or life. In the hours before the storm, my mind kept on taking me back to the stories of the Prophets who warned their people of a dire punishment if they continued to disbelieve in Allah, and how they remained heedless. I hoped that my choice to not prepare for this storm wasn’t a reflection of how I would have acted if I had lived at a different time and been warned of a different kind of storm.

– Fatima, Falls Church VA

Hurricane Sandy hit central NJ hard the evening of Monday October 29th.  Winds began howling mid-afternoon as my 3.5 year old observed the scene from our living room window.  Lights went out at 8 pm. With two flashlights and a host of candles, we gathered around a small table, sharing child-friendly scary stories and introduced her to the wonderful world of charades, a memory that will always stay with me.  Although our neighborhood had its share of fallen trees and power outages, our home was thankfully spared. We feel so grateful to be safe and pray for all those who have been deeply affected.  While the storm has created much devastation, it has also given us the opportunity to teach our daughter the importance of giving back to the community, something I hope she will carry with her as she grows into a strong Muslim woman.

– Nadia, East Windsor, NJ

We lost power. The kids thought it was devastating. We talked about the effect on others – flooding, no water in some areas, trees crashing through homes.  We talked about all our blessings – all together, healthy, safe, working fireplace to keep us warm, hot water, food to eat, etc; the list is endless alhamdulillah. Day 10 of no electricity – we’ve camped out on the family room floor in front of the fireplace, hung blankets on the windows to keep out the draft, cordoned off the room with sheets to contain the heat of the fireplace. We are warm. Our stove works and we eat warm food.  We wash our laundry in the bathtub and dry in front of the fireplace. The kids complain less about their food choices and eat in the semi darkness with one flashlight since sunset is so early now. By 5:30 everyone’s ready for bedtime and by 6:30 they’ve pretty much knocked out.  Us adults do a quick cleanup, pray the night prayer, and by 8:30 we are also in bed. How easy sleep comes without the distractions of our everyday life.  In a way, once power is back, I think we’ll miss the simple life. If it wasn’t for the lights and heat missing, I might consider keeping things this way. I do miss being connected to the outside world with phone and internet, but I think I’ve been a better mother without their presence.

– UmMuhammad, Lyndhurst, NJ

The way I see it, there are so many hidden blessings the hurricane bought with it. For one thing, people got in touch with each other, even reaching out to others they haven’t spoken to in ages. And EVERYONE has remembered yet again who’s truly in charge- Allah.  Many people are now realizing the blessings of having electricity, hot water, and basic everyday conveniences that are easily taken for granted.  We have also been given many chances now to step up and help in humanitarian effort to help those who lost everything in the hurricane.  May our duaa to Allah increase dramatically.  Sometimes it only takes a hurricane to help us all place things into perspective. Thank you Allah for giving us all these blessings.

– Amira, Springfield, VA

I’m sitting on the edge of the couch, as CNN reporters are giving live coverage of Sandy’s worst paths of destruction. All I see is torrential rains, deadly winds, and the red text at the bottom of the screen, telling me where the storm is headed. Massachusetts, where my mom and sister live, Atlantic City, Newark; all too close to my former home in Clifton, NJ, where there is more of my family.  Although I was oceans away from this storm I am still frightened by it. That night I had nightmares of being caught in it and trying desperately to get my family to high ground from the flooding. I awoke tired and worried. Had my family made it through the storm? I wouldn’t be able to find out for hours. I kept thinking of how the Prophet Muhammad used to be terrified when he saw dark storm clouds heading in his direction. He was afraid the wrath of Allah was upon them, like it destroyed the people of Ad, as the Quran tells us: “Then when they saw it as a dense cloud coming towards their valleys, they said: ‘This is a cloud bringing us rain!’ Nay but it is that torment which you were asking to be hastened! A wind wherein is a painful torment! Destroying everything by the command of its Lord!” (Chapter 46). I just kept Praying for this storm not to be from the wrath of Allah.

– Christina, Luxembourg

Ten days have gone by, four of which were spent by the fireplace or in bed reading by candlelight. The remaining six, relishing in all things electric as soon as the power was back on. Thinking it’s about time to lend a hand, I gathered a few bags of cleaners, toiletries and blankets and tagged along with my sister to donate the items to a shelter in Little Ferry, NJ, one of the towns hit hardest by Sandy.

St. Margaret’s Church was a safe haven for the area, working as a shelter first and now a pantry, stocked with every item you would find at your local Walmart. I noticed that as people came in to donate bags upon bags of necessities, there were only about five or ten people going through the aisles, filling up their cardboard box to take home or, as I realized later in the day, the place they used to call home.

The female volunteer at the front table drove up from Michigan the night before to help out here. Many of us who live just 5 minutes away have only shared pictures and facebook status’ of the devastation and then gone back to our normal lives. About to do just that, I went home, but as I finished eating my late breakfast my dad asked me for a favor. He rents out a house in Little Ferry, where the tenants are a couple who have been displaced since day one.  They were at a nearby bus stop and needed a ride. The dreaded Nor’easter snowfall had already begun when I picked them up.

As I drove them to Home Depot, they told me their story. As the storm started up, the husband thought about moving his car to higher ground. He went to get his coat but when he got to the front door, it was too late, the water had already risen to a foot and a half. He and his wife watched, unable to stop four feet of water from seeping through the floorboards and windows of the house. It all happened in less than 15 minutes. The first floor of their two-story home was gone, just like that. The 325 sand bags he surrounded the house with did nothing.

We left Home Depot with a propane heater and rat poison (for the squirrels that entered the attic) and on the way home, they told me that the heater was not necessarily for them, but to dry out the house. Town officials had begun marking homes as uninhabitable due to mold that had already begun to form in the walls. They came home after a few days at the shelter to watch over their belongings since looters began circling the town and taking valuables. The house had literally been turned upside down and inside out. Every piece of furniture, appliances, and nearly every belonging were damaged. They tried their best, laying things out flat to dry, knowing that there’s most likely no saving them. A computer administrator by occupation, the husband had thousands of dollars worth of computers destroyed before he could move them all in time. He put them out in the back for FEMA to look at, but when he came home later that day, they had all been stolen. He pointed to a paper taped to a wall unit 6 feet up of the ground, the first dry thing I saw there. He proudly explained that he went to New York the day before the storm hit and got a signature from a Fox News lady I never heard of. His car, and his wife’s car both still have a full tank of gas, but since the flood destroyed them, they’re both now used as storage.

We headed out to the propane shop to fill up a tank for the heater. Electricity won’t be restored to their house along with 5 others on the block until every house replaces their circuit breaker box (which will cost at least $1000). While getting power back was at the top of our list, it was the least of their worries.

Today they were wearing clothes that were donated from the church. When I offered to bring them to the church to restock on food and supplies, they declined. “It’s too emotional,” the wife said. I didn’t quite understand that and went on to tell her how helpful and sweet the volunteers were. She responded with “I just can’t go again, it’s embarrassing.”

We hugged goodbye for the day after we ran a few more errands. On my way home, I put myself in her shoes and could not fathom the idea, so I stopped trying and just prayed for them.

– Safura, Paramus, NJ

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