1) Backup generators don’t necessarily go to those who need them most, and sometimes they don’t work. Several hospitals lost generator power due to being flooded. How is it possible no one thought this would happen, especially at the Shore? Also, it is not mandatory for gas stations, grocery stores and cellular towers to have backup generators. How is this not a security issue? And then there are the people with generators in their vacation homes while entire buildings were in the dark.
2) Greed and desperation don’t take a holiday. At least three shooting incidents occurred in Asbury Park immediately after the storm, and several more in the weeks that followed. Then there were the handymen and repair businesses—some more legitimate than others--who descended within hours of the storm. And let’s not forget the many examples of price gouging, from gas to water to batteries.
3) Neither does entitlement. The melee at Wegman’s and other grocery stores on the day following the storm was downright shocking, especially considering many folks can’t afford or didn’t have access to a vehicle to even get there. Then there were the fights and cutting in line both there and at gas stations, which speak for themselves.
4) Not everyone pays attention to pre-storm instructions. The number of people who didn’t plan ahead and fill gas tanks, bathtubs and water bottles, empty refrigerators of perishables and buy ice, candles, matches and batteries is pretty amazing. It’s not like we didn’t get any warning. And everyone should have a disaster plan for his or her household, so if they’re forced to leave quickly, they have what they need. In this age of information, people really should take care of these details. Then there are those who didn’t make any sort of plans for their animal friends and left them behind with no food and water to fend for themselves. Your pets give you everything and they ask nothing in return, and you repay them by leaving them alone and terrified? There are all sorts of pet-friendly resources out there, especially after Katrina. It’s a shame more weren’t able to take advantage.
5) People can be incredibly generous and selfless. The outpouring of support—financial and otherwise—after the storm was heartwarming. Countless opened their doors and their hearts to others in need in countless ways. The local SPCA went door to door in storm-ravaged areas to make sure people—many of whom were trapped in their neighborhoods because their vehicles were destroyed—had enough food and other supplies for their pets. Many of these folks stayed behind—putting themselves at risk--because they didn’t want to leave their companion animals behind.
6) They can also be insensitive assholes. How much of a jerk do you have to be to put up a tent outside Wal-Mart, Best Buy, etc. so you can be first in line to buy stuff you don’t really need when there are actually people living in tents because they lost their homes?
7) Scarlett O’Hara lives. Sort of. “I’m never going without electricity again.” Demand for generators—both before and after Sandy—was unprecedented. Except that not everyone can afford to buy a generator, let alone keep filling it with gas (natural or otherwise). And don’t you feel the least bit sheepish about not inviting any of your less fortunate neighbors in to share the wealth? Then there were those with solar panels who also had no power because most can’t afford the expense of battery backup to store the excess juice. So much for going green.
8) You can live without television and the Internet. I did, for five whole days. And you know what? The silence was kind of refreshing. And it makes people get outside, where there are all sorts of things to do that don’t involve pointless gossip. Technology can make your life so much better, but it can’t save you from yourself.
9) You can also live without the microwave. Cooking with gas and using only non-perishables was a challenge that required creativity and ingenuity; I actually kind of enjoyed it—and was grateful to have both gas and water to cook with when so many didn’t.
10) Everyone has his or her own storm story, and they will tell anyone who will listen. And keep telling it. And telling it. And telling it.
Everyone was affected but not in equal measure, and everyone wants—and needs—to talk about it, and that’s fine. But enough already. So you had no light for one day—it’s not really a tragedy. In fact, it’s kind of good for people to be jolted out of their routines once in a while. Stop telling me how it sucked to brew coffee the old-fashioned way, and be glad you had coffee to brew.
In the aftermath of the storm, we have all heard—and said—all the clichés. We are all lucky. It could have been so much worse. Others have it worse than I do. There is that cliché that disasters bring out the best and worst in people, and for the most part that’s true. I just wish we’d learn a little more from all this, and that we wouldn’t lose the best of ourselves so easily or so quickly.