Over the past week, the news has been filled with footage and updates regarding Hurricane Sandy’s devastation and recovery efforts. Referred to by many media outlets as “New Jersey’s Katrina,” the superstorm has claimed lives and livelihood here and across several other states. Some lost power. Others lost homes, business and in some cases, family members.
As a New Jersey resident for over 20 years, I’ve never lived more than 15 miles from the ocean. It’s difficult to comprehend when Governor Christie and others say that most of the Jersey shore is now entirely “unrecognizable” or altogether gone. Homes, possessions and pets are no more, swept in the ocean along with the twisted metal of entire roller coasters from nearby boardwalk amusement areas.
Much of my childhood was spent on Staten Island (also greatly impacted by Sandy) where trips with family to head “down the shore” made me lose sleep with excitement. Through the years, there were strolls along the shore, enjoying boardwalk taffy and bonfires and of course, plenty of swimming. One unusually hot April day a few years ago brought hundreds of people to the shore. I joined them on Sandy Hook, one of my favorite places, grinning ear to ear at the pre-Memorial Day delight of wearing suntan lotion. Just a few days before Sandy hit, I sat on the Point Pleasant beach and watched the wonderful sunrise. I made the rest of that day a “beach day” as I drove through Spring Lake, Ocean Grove and then along Ocean Avenue passing through Monmouth Beach, Sea Bright and finally, Sandy Hook.
Yesterday, I spoke with a friend who is now in a hotel room miles away, unsure of the status of her Sea Bright condo. Low-flying Coast Guard helicopters are a routine sound as are the sights of the National Guard waving people through blocked intersections, downed poles and buckled streets. Parts of the shore do not exist.
Yet while many people have pulled together to assist others by making monetary donations, volunteering at soup kitchens or donating food and clothing, there are those who have exhibited shockingly appalling behaviors. Their childish “woe-is-me-and-nobody-else” whining and unwarranted rage (although, is rage ever warranted?) towards another person is an embarrassment to the human race, a shameful reflection of character and very, very disheartening to observe.
Actually, this could be said about behaviors in response to Sandy’s devastation just as much as it could be about how many people handle an ordinary day at work or home. A perpetual bad attitude, the inability to respect others and throwing their hands up in the air at adult life responsibilities, especially at times like this, does not demonstrate confidence and courage but rather cowardice and crudeness.
I say this because of what I observed yesterday: Big time road rage while waiting in a local gas line for over an hour. The man behind me could not help but to block the intersection and it was enough to set off the woman on the side road trying to cross. She had enough. She actually got out of her car, pounded her fist repeatedly on the man’s van door and hood, then shouted that he shouldn’t have blocked the intersection. I couldn’t help but tremble as I watched from my rear-view mirror, her tone and frowns as deep as her impatience and lack of respect. The driver basically ignored until she returned to her vehicle. This of course, caused others to yell from their windows, a domino effect of anger that is often seen spewing forth from little minds trying to make big moves.
I spent the rest of my wait feeling nervous inside, listening to yells and honks and watching angry fists and fingers rise towards the glorious sky. Just as I got to the tank about 30 minutes after this incident, a pedestrian came running up to a nearby police officer. She was breathless and near tears as she informed him that a fight was about to break out.
Moments later, my tank was filled. The instant I left the station, I felt lighter inside. Forget gas, I felt more grateful to have escaped near-riot experiences. Yet my heart felt deeply saddened.
Entire boardwalks, homes and business are forever gone, the National Guard is in our own neighborhoods and for some, family members have died or are missing. We are all, in our own way, struggling. And yet, many folks—likely the same kind of folks who are bothered by sunlight but wait for someone else to buy them sunglasses, the same kind of folks who complain rather than contribute, the “I’m the only one in the world (or region, or mere moment)”—these people have nothing better to do than yell and pound their fists in anger all in their attempt to get ahead and ironically, move forward with their lives in peace and happiness.
We’re in this together, everyone. Not just concerning Sandy, but this thing called Life.
Let’s learn to play nice.