"My home died" - surviving a hurricane in New York City

I've only ever seen the reality of hurricanes through the media. Intense wind. Driving rain. Torrents of flooding water. People stranded one roofs. This was knowledge gained from images and reports from miles away.

Not so anymore.

One of the houses we worked on.
This week on our trip to New York with Praxis part of our time has been spent working with Mennonite Disaster Service helping with the ongoing recovery efforts following hurricane Sandy. Yes, you read right: Sandy, the hurricane that ravaged New York nearly a year and a half ago. Until being here, I had no idea how damaging the storm was, and how long lasting the destruction has been.

After the initial hurricane - and many of the images and stories we heard around the world - many have endured ongoing trauma ranging from physical house issues such as mold infestation or rotted foundations, to bureaucratic nightmares trying to gather funds to pay for something as simple having the water turned back on (some homes still don't have running water). On TV we saw the immediate dramatic reality, but this week I've seen the ongoing dramatic reality of a hurricane such as Sandy.

One evening we had the chance to hear from a survivor of the hurricane. Thea, a single retired woman, shared about her encounter with Sandy, which included floating on a piece of wood with her cat for four hours since her house had water to the ceilings. But that wasn't what touched me most. Describing the return to her home the week following the hurricane, Thea bluntly described the situation: "my home died." It was like losing a family member she lamented. She had her life but no home.

Thea then went on to describe the emotional journey of salvaging only a few of her belongings and entering a months-long journey of rebuilding her home. Through the help of several individuals and organizations, Thea only recently moved back into her home. Upon receiving her toilet (after living in the house for months already), Thea could finally say "I was home again." Hers was a journey of death (her home) but also life (her home once more!). To be able to participate in these types of stories while volunteering to rebuild homes has been humbling and inspiring.

In terms of our trip to New York, working with MDS as only further strengthened my appreciation for the people in this city. Like all cities, there is much brokenness and hurt, yet in each story we've seen glimpses of hope.

*this is just one story of several our group heard during our time on Staten Island.


Sharon said...

I could only imagine the horror you've felt when the horrible thing you only see in the media was actually happening right before your eyes. I’m sorry for everyone who had to go through that. But whether we like it or not, natural disasters are all part of the system, and though we could prepare for them, we could only do so much as preparing and rebuilding ourselves from the havoc it will bring our lives. Stay safe!

Sharon Strock @ Storm Chamber®

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