The past two weeks have been relentless. It has been ten days since Sandy really walloped us and it is still the primary conversation in Jersey City.
Ben and I didn’t expect Sandy to be that big of a deal. We were barely affected by Irene, and if anything, it had been a nice break from responsibilities for a couple days. But this, I couldn’t have expected. I’ve never been through anything like it.
Don’t watch a zombie apocalypse show before a hurricane
After a lazy Monday killing time (Watching The Walking Dead, eating all the snacks we had bought, and checking up on facebook posts for cocktail suggestions) Ben and I started our Lord of the Rings Marathon. As the movie went on, Ben and I began checking our cell phones and found startling posts of things happening in New York and New Jersey. Crane dangles over a friends apartment, façade of a building collapses at 14th and 8th, half of Jersey without power, a terrifying video of Coned exploding. What was going on? All seemed fine in here. My landlord was upstairs drinking and playing Scrabble. Then the power went out at about 10pm, and we wouldn’t see it again until Saturday.
7 days of gray
The next five days were a roller coaster of exhaustion, worry, cold, and eventually fear. We ventured out the next morning when we found that our quickly dying cell phones had no service and we needed to check that our families were okay. We also had to contact our jobs, since this was the 2nd day we were both missing, something very tricky when you live off every dollar. We found some mysterious service next to a Dunkin Donuts about a mile away. Across the street, there was also a 7-11 letting people in several at a time to shop in the dark and pay with cash. You want a creepy reminder of the zombie apocalypse show you’ve been watching? Shop in a dark 7-11. But we grabbed some essentials. And cookies. When doing the same thing the next day at a dark C-Town, the butcher comically stood at his empty display case yelling, “Next!” Comedy gets you through everything.
Also, the traffic lights were out (and many still are) making driving and crossing the street very precarious. There was a driving ban but not many were following it and the police had bigger problems to deal with. This guy threw on his security jacket and yelled “Someone’s gotta do it,” as he began to direct traffic, “Occupy Jersey City!!” He is on my list of heroes from the week.
The hardest thing to see were all of the people way less fortunate than Ben and I who were essentially screwed because of the storm. Families with kids were wandering around Journal Square looking for a way to use a phone, or find some cash to get to people they needed to take care of. When Ben and I found service we realized that all major roads in and out of Jersey City were closed and so were the tunnels into Manhattan. There’s some claustrophobia for you.
We also weren’t flooded, which many people were. We have friends and I’ve talked to strangers about how their apartments are essentially gone. There are parts of Jersey City listed as “demolished.” Yet all of these people started their stories with, “But we are very lucky.” Ben and I also very much feel this way. We are very very appreciative how we got out of this unscathed. So to the people who lost so much, I tip my hat to you for this attitude.
That night we were blessed for the first time of many to be with friends. Carla, Justin, and Carla’s parents still had power and adopted up for dinner, drinks, and a place to plug in phones. If it wasn’t for nights like these, we wouldn’t have made it through the week. One of the strangest images I still have in my head is driving back in a cab in the pitch black. A city looks deserted when it is dark like that, and the claustrophobia heightens even more.
Still no work on Wednesday, since the path is still down, and money becomes a big concern. We spend most of the day with Dan and Kim, who have regained power at this point and they adopted us for two days so we could warm up and forget about the state of things.
I think the creepiest feeling to me was that the town had simply stopped living for a few days. The businesses were closed up, people wandered the streets, and any attempt at transportation was met with hostility, mobs of people, and exhausted cops. Ben and I had a rude awakening Halloween night when we made the poor decision to walk home from Dan and Kim’s. Their neighborhood had power, but about a mile of our walk was in the dark. We used a flashlight and our cell phones to see ahead of us, and it hit me half way up the hill of Newark Avenue that we could be mugged and no one would know. Our phones had no service, cops were scattered elsewhere in the city (you knew because of the never ending sound of sirens all week), and oh yeah…it was pitch black. Ben and I made it home, hugged the cats, and went to bed. The next few nights did not include a lot of sleep though, with the thought of a potentially dangerous neighborhood and no form of communication.
On Friday I couldn’t take it, I had to work. By some miracle, these little buses that run out of Journal Square were still running. They’re totally unlicensed and a little crazy, but they were running every several minutes. NJ Transit was basically no where to be seen. I made it out of Jersey City for the first time on Friday morning to babysit in midtown. I told the man at a café a bit of my story and he gave me about a fourth of a pie and a cup of coffee. My way home was a different story. Since these buses were the only things running to Jersey City at this time of night (ferries were closed at 7), the line to the gate slinked through the entire length of Port Authority and back around the other way. As Ben put it later, it was the longest line he ever waited on that didn’t have a roller coaster at the end of it. My nerves were so shot and I knew I was going home to a cold dark apartment.
Ben met me at a dark journal square with a flashlight, a screwdriver in his pocket , and news that we had a place to stay that night. Ben’s friend Derrick (yet another person in the Drew Alumni Network of Awesome People [DANAP?]) had us over for drinks, food, hot showers, and a warm place to sleep. I am forever grateful. Around 2am our landlord text us that our power had come back. HALLELUJAH!
Every day: One more thing
Almost two weeks has gone by and many things have returned to normal. Or close to it. For many people though, that isn’t the case. There are still FEMA food lines around the block from us and PSE&G is still tweeting about their persistent work to get everything up and running. I have come out of this with a huge appreciation for basic conveniences. I made it into the city last Monday for a doctor’s appointment and nearly cried when I was able to use the SUBWAY. Never ever thought that would happen.
There were so many unspoken heroes I came across during the storm…so I give you my heart full of gratitude:
1. Carla and Justin: They took us in, made us an INCREDIBLE dinner, and watched The Producers with us.
2. Dan and Kim: For two days you opened your home to us for some sanity, Cards Against Humanity, amazing food, and a break from our cold creepy house.
3. Derrick Loafmann: You rock! Thank you for the place to sleep, great company, and hot shower. Also, we went to the same summer camp?!
4. To everyone who invited us over or offered help…it meant to much to know we had a support base.
5. The Broadway Cast of Chicago: YUP. I went here with the lovely Kelli Meyer and there were only about 90 people in the audience. I needed a fun show, ANYTHING to get my mind off things, and that’s what you did. Even Broadway actors can perform their best to a nearly empty audience.
6. Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark: Follow this man’s Twitter. He is a hero in so many ways. Run for President, I will vote for you.
7. The managers of the Jitney buses: I see what hell you’ve been going through at Port Authority every day. You get a lot of crap from NY cops, but still get me home.
8. The guy in the little coffee shop on Coles and 5th who made me a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich with their last eggs when I was at the end of my rope.
But every day my nerves calm down more and more and I breathe a little more deeply. My heart goes out to everyone who still doesn’t have power or who lost so much more than us in all of this. Until next time, when my blog post will be about cookie recipes and the dramas of my theatre career, be well everyone:) And Mother Nature….COOL IT.