Hurricane Sandy and I now have a one week relationship. It started last Wednesday down in the Dominican Republic. We were touring a school that the mission I was down there with ran when the rains came. Monsoon like white sheets of driving rain. The noise was deafening on the metal roof and the streets were almost instantly flooded. We spent the next day and a half trapped in our hotel due to flooding, wind, downed trees, and overflowing septics.
The rains kept coming in waves. Huge gusts of wind ushered in blinding rains. On Friday we were finally able to return to Ceilo, the village near our mission, Mission Emanuel. We gathered bags of rice and went into the village to hand them out to those who could not leave their home or afford it. Thunder growled in the distance as we set off down the road to our first home.
We arrived at Theophilia’s home just as wave 46 of hurricane Sandy blew in. She invited us in so we crowded into her home. Her home was nothing more than a shack made of wooden walls, a metal roof, and a cement floor. As we stood talking to her the rain began to seep in through the door. It was almost too dark to see but when Theophilia went to turn on the single overhead bulb, the electricity was out. She told us that she did not like being cooped up in her home with all windows and doors shut; it scared her. She also told us of her cousins in New York and lifted her foot to show us the shoes they had sent her, thankful even in the storm for what she had.
The next day dawned bright and sunny with crystal clear blue skies. This was the Dominican that people travel to find. It was also the day we were flying home. Hurricane Sandy was making its way up the Atlantic, churning near GA and the Carolina’s. We flew right over it! From the plane’s window we could see the thick ominous clouds as we flew smoothly above it. We landed in an already gray and dreary New Jersey in time to prepare for Hurricane Sandy part 2.
And, of course, Hurricane Sandy hit. This time it was not rain for us but wind. “Hunker down” became more than a cliche as the intensity of the gusts grew and grew. Then, Monday evening, Sandy made landfall. People living near the shore experienced major flooding, but for us it was the wind. Trees fell and parts of our house blew off. We raced into the yard to salvage each piece. All day we waited for the electricity to go out. It was a given that we would lose it. For hours the lights flickered and dimmed as the winds grew and grew. Finally, the power went off and did not come back on. It was almost a relief because it was what we had been waiting for all day.
Now, three days later we still sit in darkness. I think of Theophilia with her single bulb, pulling it in hopes that it might turn on and chase the darkness away. The sun did return in the DR and she was able to once again throw her doors wide open. The sun has poked through the clouds here today. Soon the darkness here too will lift. Life will return to normal here in the Northeast.
We had returned to the states expecting to return to life as we knew it. Jobs, school, chores, and errands. But Sandy put a stop to all of that. Instead we all sit at home, priorities have changed. Who would have thought that filling a tank of gas would be a challenge! And you know what becomes a priority? Those around us! Normally we would have been so busy with our own lives that we would not know what was going on in the lives of those around us. We would not have stopped to ask if they need anything. But not this week! This week we have all stopped and asked the questions. Do you need help? Are you okay? Do you need a shower, or food, or a ride? Can I help you with your house?
It’s sad to think that it takes a hurricane to get people to stop and reach out to others. Soon life will return to normal here in the Northeast, but hopefully we will be changed. We will all look up more often from our own lives and notice those around us. Reach out to one another and look for ways to help. I, personally, remember Theolpilia and how she was willing to share with us what little she had. I can do the same with so much more.