This time of year is usually afloat with festive lights, decorations, and seemingly non-stop parties. Often, whether we want to or not, we engage in these over-the-top festivities to commemorate the particular holiday we celebrate. But in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it doesn’t seem right to go all out this year.
For starters, many of us can’t. There are numerous families who have lost everything they had and still have no permanent homes. Others have been devastated by immense debt, and lost businesses and jobs as a direct result. Worst of all, there are those who lost loved ones in the natural disaster and will carry on through the holiday season without them.
On one hand, it doesn’t seem correct to go overboard with merriment when so many of our friends and neighbors have been devastated, but on the other hand, we still need to celebrate the holidays with our kids, pointing out how lucky we are to have what we have, and most of all, each other.
My family was minimally affected, our basement and everything in it was destroyed. To say that the water rushed in fast is an understatement. One minute we had a dry house and the next minute, four feet of the sea was rushing down our block.
Everything in our basement was wrecked: the furnace, boiler, washing machine, and dryer. Expensive, but replaceable. Then, there are things that cannot be replaced: my kids’ baby albums, baptism videos, my wedding album, wedding video, countless videos of trips to my parents’ house, holidays, and special events. Also, my daughter’s high school yearbook, some of my first published academic pieces, and notes to and from my uncle who passed away.
But we are lucky, because we are still here to make more memories. Others aren’t, and that is a fact that plagues me most nights. Sleep for many has become a cloudy, disillusioned mix of exhaustion and scattered release.
We are still just trying to get back to normal, and the good people of New Orleans who braved Katrina tell us New Yorkers that it is to be expected, and it is not something that will vanish overnight. I visited New Orleans back in 2009, and although it was years after their disaster, there was still a feeling that the land and the people had been through something significant. The residents were eager to share their personal stories with out-of-towners, and their tales were devastating. I can’t help but see and feel the similarities here in New York. The helplessness and despair in the days following was palpable.
So, it has been a little over a month now as we try to plan this year’s festivities, and it is with a sense of resolve that we will endure it all, as we have done before. There is no exact comparison between Sandy and 9-11, but the mood of the city in the affected areas seems a bit like it did back in 2001, that we have been shaken but not broken. And, like back then, neighbors (and strangers) have come out of the woodwork to help those who need it. I have received messages from readers all over the country sending prayers and well wishes, and it warms my heart every single time.
I have witnessed first-hand the generosity of the human spirit, and it is nothing short of uplifting. My son’s school, Good Shepherd in Marine Park, took in more than 200 students from the Rockaways at a moment’s notice. Mr. Paparelli, the principal, the teachers, and students welcomed the new students with open arms.
Mr. Pap (as the kids and parents affectionately call him) showed by example what should be done when something this catastrophic happens: offer help in any way we can. I have never been prouder to be part of the Good Shepherd family. We have also seen countless volunteers from various states heading to New York to help hand out food, supplies, help clean, and offer comfort. Every bit helps.
While we are collectively recovering, we all still want the holidays to be a special time for our families. Our collection of Christmas decorations was lost in the flood, so as we start brand new this year, we will begin with a few, solemn pieces to signify the season and a couple of white lights to welcome hope, love, and light back into our lives, as we send prayers of comfort for all those affected, and prayers of thanks for all those who helped and continue to assist.
Wishing you all a warm and loving holiday season.
Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for over 10 years. Sullivan also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babble.com. Find her on Facebook and Twitter @DanniSullWriter, or on her blog, Just Write Mom.