Finding human nature in the wake of Mother Nature

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:12

    You don’t know what it’s like until you go through it. I keep telling everyone that. My mother and I lived through a tornado when I was a child in Connecticut. We lived through Hurricane Floyd. Luckily, until now we have never experienced really first-hand the devastating effects a natural disaster can have on you and your family. My mother lives in Sloatsburg and moved there a year ago. She lives in a cute little pink cottage on her own with her cat. On Sunday when the Hurricane hit, we were all safe, my mother in her pink cottage and my husband and I in our apartment in Tuxedo when shortly after noon I got a frantic call from my mother. The dam behind her house broke and the Ramapo River was in her home. She told me she was sitting on a counter top and only had enough time to quickly put her cat in the cat carrier and throw some items in the bedroom which was a little bit of higher ground. I couldn’t imagine how bad it was and thought she was overreacting, but nonetheless I called 911 and was told that she would be evacuated. Shelter from the storm Eventually the firemen in Sloatsburg evacuated my mother and brought her to Sloatsburg Elementary. My husband and I were unable to get to my mother as down by Jesse’s Bagels it was flooded. Finally in the late afternoon people had worked to get the flooding down and we were able to get to Sloatsburg. The first place we went was to her house. Orange Turnpike was a river and I somehow waded across to Mill St. where she lives. The site that I saw shocked me. Water was everywhere, up to my thighs. I was allowed into her house and her house was destroyed. Her house has a sunken living room with two steps leading up to the bedroom. The living room, kitchen and bathroom were destroyed. Her couch was under water. I was allowed to grab some clothes for her from the bedroom which was just starting to flood. There was concern that Sabago Dam was going to break so my husband and I moved fast. We next went to Sloatsburg Elementary to get my mother and her cat. She was crying. I was crying. It was so emotional telling her that her house was destroyed. That night my mom came back to our apartment in Tuxedo and spent the night. What was going to happen next we had no clue. A temporary home But natural disasters bring out the best in people and my mom’s neighbors were not going to let her be homeless. Remarkably, an apartment right across the street that was vacant and also ground level didn’t flood. The landlord told her she could stay there for however long she needed until her little pink cottage could be rebuilt. Her neighbor spent all of Monday helping her move into her temporary home. Whatever she had thrown into the bedroom as the flood waters poured into her home survived. She lost her couch, TV stand, everything in the kitchen except her fridge (which we still can’t figure out). For now she is safe with a roof over her head thanks to the help of her neighbor and landlord. The church brought her over food. And here’s the most amazing part: A team of builders who had been doing some work outside of my mother’s home before the Hurricane came by on Tuesday. They had been working on the Extreme Makeover House and when they returned to Sloatsburg to finish the job they were hired for, they toured my mother’s house. They offered to rebuild the entire cottage and estimated that they could have it rebuilt in a month’s time. Helping one another When a natural disaster strikes, people open their hearts and are willing to go above and beyond to help others. I feel so blessed that my mother has a temporary place to live with her cat, I feel blessed that she is alive. I feel blessed that people are willing to help her. Belongings can be replaced, but lives can not. We don’t plan for these types of things and you never expect it to happen to you, but when it does it’s great to know that there are people there for you. Many of us in Tuxedo and Sloatsburg witnessed first-hand the devastating effects that Mother Nature can have. We have all been trying to get back to normal. This is just one story of a victim of Hurricane Irene. I know there are hundreds more. I hope others are finding the same thing that my mom has found: The willingness of others to help out in times of need. It will take time, but we will all rebuild and life will go back to normal. Always remember how during a time of need we all came together to help one another out. Joan Wanamaker Tuxedo