At the mere mention of a hurricane or a storm, I go into a state of panic. Last week while coworkers somewhat naively read Twitter headlines of the impending stateside “Frankenstorm,” I excused myself to the handicap stall of the bathroom to take deep breaths and pop an emergency benzo to stave off a panic attack.
Growing up in the Virgin Islands, on St. Thomas (what, you thought that was my real last name?) hurricane season crept around like the devil’s version of Christmas season – residents hurrying to stock pile lanterns and non-perishable goods like parents hoarding the latest toys; families boarding up houses with the dedication of decorating a Christmas tree. Yes we drank rum, but without the jolly warmth of eggnog.
Unfortunate others, perhaps those new to natural disasters or without media access and unaware of the danger suffered the consequences. Or, as what happened to my family in September of 1995 during Hurricane Marilyn, you can follow the preperation manual perfectly and then your neighbor’s house (In my case one belonging to the cousin of Andy Warhol, what a strange world we live in) becomes uprooted by the winds and smashes into your own home and your meager human efforts at protecting residence are smashed, quite literally to shit by mother nature.
I was in second grade, my memories of that night are spotty — perhaps I blocked many out. Those remaining include the four of us, my parents and sister hiding in the downstairs closet while the upper levels collapsed on top of us. Our family’s car, a 4Runner came crashing through a wall. I threw up. I worried about my kitty cat Rosa. Rastas called the radio to report their cows being picked and carried away by tornadoes. The soul-piercing silence of the eye of the storm.
The next morning our neighbor, a family friend and jeweler hacked us out of the rubbish with an axe and we crawled out of the debris. We spent the next week homeless, wandering from home to home in our neighborhood that had survived the storm. With lawyer parents, my sister, mother and I were blessed enough to escape to my grandparents via Puerto Rico on a small plane after only about ten days or so of living displaced. Even when we returned, months without power, ages without television. Showers in the rain, baths by boiling water pulled up by a bucket on a rope from a cistern.
And now the same disruption and terror has come to New York. Living in ABC City I lost power for a few days and am still without heat, but compared to the Rockaways and the Jersey Shore I escaped unscathed. Emotionally, like many of us affected, no matter what degree, I’ve felt dredged in darkness and anxiety the entire week, the continuous sounds of sirens flooding the city punctuating our collective depression. I’m grateful for my New York family, my friends, boyfriend and sister who I weathered the storm with, as we attempted to fight off cabin fever with each other’s company and copious amounts of red wine.
If this post has a purpose other than acting as emotional therapy, until I can see my therapist in a few weeks, (I’m about to leave the city after my election day to Maui then Sydney with my boyfriend, the trip was planned pre-Sandy but couldn’t come at a better time. And yeah, I know, I’m fucking too damn blessed to be depressed) it’s to hope that the slightest silver lining of hurricanes such as Sandy creeping their way up from the Caribbean to New York City is that perhaps those with lingering doubt will recognize climate change is real. And yup, you called it, here it goes in 3, 2, 1…