Thanksgiving presented an opportunity to give thanks that I won’t soon forget. I
know you’ve heard all about it on a topical level, but I’m here to provide some
inside color. The lessons to be learned
from a Category 1 hurricane temporarily inundating your hometown with the Atlantic Ocean are monumental.
first hurricane head fake came when meteorologists started hyping the
storm. For a change, they nailed this
one. I had advance warning from a heroic
power trader in Baltimore who was in front of it by 10 days. I knew my town was in trouble because last
year Hurricane Irene came and went with 75% of our locals sticking around to
laugh at Al Roker. One week after that hurricane Long Beach, New York,
of all places, was treated to its finest hour when 100 year surf conditions
provided a playing field for the best surfers in the world to compete for the NYQuiksilver
Pro Championship. This time, we wouldn’t
be so incredibly lucky, but we’d learn something.
level created by the storm, the unbelievable surge, and then the aftermath is a
lot to bear for a blue-collar beach community. The City of Long Beach had just
elected new leadership, for better or for worse, and cut spending and raised
taxes to cover its $25M budget deficit. Then Sandy hit causing billions of dollars in
damage. Neither the savings accounts, nor the tax receipts of a town with
a median income of $76,000, were going to pay for those billions.
Consider for a moment that I had no idea what condition the town was in during
the wee hours of October 30th. I was left to reading the “market”
firmly believe that having a background in trading is useful in any time of
crisis. During a low-grade natural disaster, daily staples like power,
gasoline, cash, and south shore pizza become a luxury. Fending for them
brings out the extremes in human nature; and you can read the sentiment signs
through catastrophe like you can read the warning signs through a trade.
around 11pm weather channel predictions came to fruition and the Frankenstorm
surge reached its peak of 10’ feet above sea level. A few of those locals
were watching their cars get entirely submerged from the 2nd floor
of their two-story home as the ocean poured into their living room right up to
their flat screen. Down the block from them in the “canals” area of town
- 6 homes were in the process of burning down to the water line in a matter of
2 hours. We were indeed on the lows in the middle of the night and I was
praying for a bottom. Text messages of desperation now read “Dude make it
my first return trip to Long Beach
on the morning of Tuesday, October 30th – I admit – I couldn’t
believe my eyes and was highly skeptical we would see any modicum of normalcy
for months to come. The town was a warzone, covered in debris and burned-out
zombie vehicles. There were parts of our boardwalk on front lawns five
blocks away, vehicles were smashed through parking garage walls like Matchbox
cars, and four feet of sand covered the roads along the beach. The water
decontamination plant had been knocked totally offline and we were at square
one in determining when, if ever, we would have power again. We’d just
been taken down several notches of living standard and gone straight to
immediately began the arduous task of pumping several feet of water out of
their basement with gas powered generators and carrying the waterlogged contents
of their life out to the curb. I will never forget the looks on the faces
of my friends, family and neighbors facing the seemingly insurmountable task of
first cleaning up after one phase of their lives, then rebuilding the next
one. Put yourself in their boots for a moment. All at once, that is a consideration your brain
after house, block after block - waterlogged furniture, wallboard, carpets,
mounds of insulation piled twenty feet high. Beautiful God fearing people
reduced to zombies in filthy wet work clothes. It was time to queue up
my crisis salvation song by Derek & the Dominoes. “It’s Got to Get Better in a Little While
knew while watching my 6-year-old niece crying out loud at the sight of her playroom
being deposited on the curb, dripping with black-water from a freshly gutted
first floor, that the situation had reached a dark sentimental bottom.
Despite the mess, the loss, and all of her tears - the sun rose again. The next time I saw my niece laugh
hysterically – I got the chills.
the days that shortly followed, the National Guard set up throughout town and
the industrial clean up revved into full gear.
Having the support of your iphone, text message system, email box, and
twitter feed fill up with calls of concern provided the first chance to get
your spirit off the mat. In short order a
friend from Connecticut offered to make a midnight run to deliver 20 gallons of
gasoline, desk mates and market buddies offered to come down and pitch in with
the clean up, professional saxophone players were available in tool belts for
the rebuilding process, the ice arena where my children skate was converted
into a massive supply station as donations arrived from every corner of the
country. Help was pouring in from
neighboring towns in the form of man power on school buses. People were so eager to help us that my faith
in human nature spiked to the top of my screen and I have all of that to be
thankful for this year.
the first Saturday after the storm I was proudly part of a 50 man team that
gutted 8 homes in 12 hours. That’s a lot of tonnage moved for charity and
something we’ll always be proud of. Some day in the future – the clean up
and the rebuild will define this episode, not the destruction or the despair.
that herculean effort, to borrow a phrase from Jules Winnfield “I was
sitting here, eating my muffin and drinking my coffee and replaying the
incident in my head, when I had what alcoholics refer to as a moment of
Ok I was drinking a cold Bud can outside and eating a hot
dog, but I’m the farthest thing from an alcoholic. In partially soaked
and entirely filthy work clothes, I realized how damn lucky I am.
most important stat was that there was no loss of life in my town.
Everything that everyone was forced to part with on short notice was either of
material or sentimental value. The truth is – in short order the material
loss will mean nothing. Aside from Rockaway Flu, we have our health and a
big job to do, but we can look each other in the eye knowing we have the will
to get it done. It didn’t seem possible 2 weeks ago but we are going to
have a 1st Grade Turkey Bowl and monstrous Thanksgiving this year
there is a town on Long Island with a Kevlar backbone, it is the town of Long Beach and that is a
testament to the people. “Beach Creatures”, as I refer to my local
brethren, want for very little. How much can you actually want for with a
median income of $76k?
realized in my moment of clarity that it is not money or the possessions we’re
after. It is to be able to call our beautiful beach town home and have
that cohesive bond motivate us to full recovery. We are all longing for a
run on the boardwalk, to watch our kids play sports on local fields and for 12
hour days on the beach that end riding waves with the family until the sun goes
down. A few thousand more man hours,
donations, FEMA checks, automobiles, generators, renovations, prayers of love
& care and we will be sitting on the beach enjoying that sunset in no time.
Still one thing that you can do;
Fall down on your knees and pray.
I know the Lord's gonna answer you.
Don't do it tomorrow, do it today.