Superstorm Sandy was more than a week ago… and so much has happened since. We are most grateful that B”H we are all fine. It was kind of exciting to watch the water rise so quickly; we were joking, laughing and working together to bring things from the first floor to the second floor. And then it was over, the water quickly receded, leaving major devastation. And then it all sank in.
The water reached over 6 feet on our street – reaching over the top of the cars. The cars are destroyed from the salt water. Everything under 6 feet in the garage was destroyed too. And everything in the basement – the rushing water burst out the window in the basement and rushed in. The basement was filled with water until the ceiling. The rushing water jostled every, bookcases came tumbling down, boxes and books and toys and sheetrock – all in a jumbled mess. And the stench of rot, mold.
So that’s the property damage. And then there is the emotional side; what a range of emotions. This is a summary of the emotions of my neighbors with whom I have been speaking. Number 1 – gratitude to Hashem that they are alive. Number 2 – gratitude to Hashem that it wasn’t worse. And then a jumble of feelings and thoughts like: disoriented, confused, displaced, appreciation for even the little things, overwhelmed, so much time being wasted with this, gallows humor, throwing out memories. It’s so hard to be on the receiving end, and it is even harder to ask people for things.
And thoughts like: “when will this be over?”, “my furnace was destroyed so even when we get power back, I can’t move in”, “what to do first?”, “I don’t know what to do with the applications, FEMA, insurance, adjusters, what is covered, what is not”, “I need helping getting the stuff out of the basement”, “where can I get some good hot food?”, “the kids still don’t have school and I can’t start the clean up with them around”, “I am crashing, falling apart”, “I’m staying with friends and I am starting to feel like I am on their head”, “I was in Brooklyn by relatives, but the people there just don’t get it”, “I need to get this laundry cleaned”, “where can I get a hot shower, I heard that there are hot showers at the gym”, “ I don’t have money to pay for everything I need – even if I will get reimbursed eventually”.
Utter confusion, emotional havoc!
The Chesed that is happening is so overwhelming. What is happening at Chabad of the Five Towns is so incredible for the whole community, as is happening in every other Chabad Center where people were affected. So much of the community still doesn’t have power and for some with power there is still no heat.
Rabbi Zalman and Chanie Wolowik and Rabbi Meir and Hadassah Geisinsky and their huge crew of volunteers from the community and beyond are doing nonstop for the whole community. The Chabad House is a central point for hot food, entertainment for the kids, counseling, charging stations, clowns, videos for the kids. They even brought in a pediatrician. They are distributing money to those who need (and they need so much money there!) Most importantly, they are there for the people – for a hug, a warm word, an ear to listen.
People have driven in from Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Maryland with trucks of food, blankets, clothing and the all important gas. Restaurants have donated huge amounts of food. People who have generators are lending them to those who still don’t have power. There are people from as far as Monsey who came after work to help pump out the water and help shlep things out of basements.
Sure, all this could have been bought with money – the manpower to pump out basements, food, blankets. Those devastated could have purchased it all. But, the feeling that someone cares is priceless.
The truck of supplies from Stamford – it was a truck full of love and care, more than the items themselves. The gas from New Haven – it was gas of love and concern, more than the gas itself. The hot food from Boro Park, the rugelach from Williamsburgh. The nameless bochurim from Crown Heights who came to help clean out basements and garages.
Love, concern, caring. Just what we really needed.
People need people – our own people.
To volunteer or help sign up here: (scroll down to submit)