I'm the opposite of a hypochondriac - my initial reaction is always "It'll be fine don't worry about it". When news reports started talking about a 'hurricane' on the way, I took my usual approach to things: I confirmed our restaurant reservation and babysitter and went out for dinner.
My husband, our friend and I were amused by the dramatic signs confirming stores would be closed until further notice. We joked about the boarded up windows as we meandered up Broadway to Cafe Luxembourg on the Upper West Side. As we sat down and noticed that Liam Neeson was at the table opposite us (no joke) we were comforted and felt sure that this 'hurricane' business was nothing to worry about.
A bottle or 2 of red wine later, we exited the restaurant to howling winds and our smirks were somewhat reduced. Monday was a weird day - eerily still, the streets were empty, the stores were all shut and we sat in our apartment waiting for something to happen. I've never been anywhere near a hurricane before. I knew all about Katrina but surely that couldn't happen in Manhattan? I decided to spend the day in our West 56th street apartment in my jeans, hair scraped back in an unwashed pony tail and no make up on... Might I add that I have NEVER done that before. I am a make up whore and haven't left my house without mascara since I was 15. And then there was a knock at the door and 3 burly rather gorgeous firefighters stood there in full Hollywood disaster movie garb and said they had 'bad news' for us, the 95 story crane behind our apartment had flipped over and was dangling precariously and we had to evacuate IMMEDIATELY. It seemed the wrong time to say that I needed to put some make up on. We threw some clothes into a backpack, took a teddy bear and a fluffy blanket for my now very excited 4 year old son and we left.
Outside, the rain bucketed down and the winds were intense. We walked 35 blocks to our friends' apartment on 30th street where we hoped to stay over night until we could return home. Shortly after we got there, all the power went out. Absolute darkness, no television and no WiFi. We had no idea what was going on around us aside from the limited internet connection which provided a twitter feed and the occasional text message. The last glimmer of 3G coverage provided me with one last tweet which read 'All bridges and tunnels from Manhattan have been closed. There is no way of exiting the island now." Why hadn't we brought Liam Neeson home with us?!
At that point my imagination went wild. What if Manhattan just sank into the sea and we all just disappeared? My husband and the friends we were staying with suggested we should all just get some sleep. I tried, but spent most of the night awake staring at my beautiful sleeping son and wondering what the hell we were doing in this crazy storm-ravaged city.
In the morning we left their apartment and walked up Madison Avenue towards Midtown to ascertain what damage had been done. The streets were soaked and covered with trash, mangled umbrellas littered every corner and thousands of people meandered about just staring at each other. As we walked, we heard more and more about the damage and destruction in Lower Manhattan, Jersey and Long Island... the cars floating down streets, the facades of buildings ripped off, the deaths and the loss of homes. After months of non-stop election coverage and relentless campaigning, the stark reality of what is truly important in this country has begun to set in.
It is several days later now and we are still homeless, we spent a few nights in the darkness of 30th street, showering in our friend's hotel room in midtown and trying to ascertain when exactly the crane will be secured so that we can go home. We are intensely grateful for the kindness of friends - and indeed strangers - but mostly that we are indoors safely together as a family.