I grew up in Monmouth County, NJ, and my parents are still there. I watched the weather with trepidation over the weekend, and then with growing horror through Monday. The photos that came in first thing Tuesday morning had me in tears.
Two things that really struck me this week:
A) Sometimes I think I am no different than I was 10 years ago, and sometimes I think the way I see the world has completely changed since I had J. This week has definitely been the latter. Imagining what it would be like to have to grab my child and evacuate ahead of the storm, or worse, unexpectedly have to protect/save him from flooding, is an absolutely terrifying thought, made all the more scary knowing that children are keen observers, and immediately can pick up on our worries. (A few weeks ago, I burst into tears about something, and J nearly started crying himself when he saw. His little eyebrows knitting up nearly made me laugh through my tears.) It’s one thing to worry about yourself, another thing entirely to know you’d do anything for our kids.
B) Not that this surprised me, but I was REALLY worried about my parents. (going from the younger generation to the older one!) During the storm, I worried that my work-a-holic father would insist on going to the office, endangering himself on the road in those tropical storm conditions. And of course, I worried about how my parents’ house and property would fare. My childhood home is far enough inland that it thankfully has escaped the brunt of the immediate damage, but now my parents are facing all the infrastructure problems. I think their water is fine, but no power for at least a week, so everything in their fridge is gone, they can’t cook anything, have no hot water, etc etc. My dad is surprisingly technologically savvy for his generation, and is tethering his laptop to his smartphone, but he gets barely any bandwidth. Even though the storm has passed, I am still calling them on a daily basis to check in, and pass on any useful information I can glean from various internet sources; what stores/restaurants/gas stations are open, what progress has been made on restoring power, how the water supply is doing, are they still under curfew, etc. Based on the information I gave them today, they ate their first hot meal in days (roast chicken and garlic bread from Sam’s Club), and it made me feel so good to know I could help them all the way from CA. At least I could directly help *someone*.
Since the vast majority of my friends and family are in NJ, I’ve kept fewer tabs on NYC, but the loss of research animals and samples at NYU was a real punch in my graduate student gut. Just today, I was going through my lab’s freezers, and tossed 3 years worth of material from a failed project into the trash. Even knowing that it was useless, and that I am still getting my Ph.D., it felt pretty terrible. I can’t even IMAGINE what it would be like to lose years worth of work that is actually going in some direction to a natural disaster. I can donate to the Red Cross all I like, but nothing I do can help in that particular situation (patient samples can’t be replaced, and I have no knockout mice to share… I’d bet that many of the strains were unique to the facility, and as such, wouldn’t be replaceable.)