What a week.

My last post brought us right up until just before our hotel lost power and Hurricane Sandy’s gargantuan breadth was beginning to descend. My naivete blared in the title of that post, predicting a paltry 48 hours of this nightmare. We are currently in Philadelphia and still under a mandatory evacuation order as our building and electrical systems sustained significant damage rendering our entire complex (made up of 1,500 apartments) unlivable; Powerless, waterless, heatless. Lest I forget, however: We are the lucky ones, and we are grateful.

Monday night was probably the most terrified I’ve ever been, not including the various ER trips I’ve taken with the kids. This was a different kind of fear-A fear that made me physically sickened for an entire night. Different than the last major natural disaster that I lived through at the young age of 10, the Loma Prieta earthquake. This time, I had a family to protect.

After I wrapped up my last blog entry, I went upstairs to get Beau so that he could join me for dinner in the lounge area of the W Hotel in Union Square. I’m the type of person that needs to be physically around other human beings to feel safe and normal, so we ordered some food (and a margarita) as I watched the street signs outside blowing sideways, the trees flying around in the blustery chaos, and tons of people just like me sipping cocktails and chatting nervously.

It turns out I was too anxious to actually eat, so Beau and I retreated to our room on the top floor of the hotel with the rest of our family. We arrived at the room with what ended up being just enough time for a hot steam shower to treat Jack’s asthma and Beau’s croup before the room went dark. The hotel had lost power and water at that point, save the hallways that were were dimly aglow via a generator. We propped our door open and prepared everyone for bed, trying to keep them calm despite the darkness and the hotel’s alarm system going off several times. The smell of smoke (not a burning/fire smell) began to waft through the air, so I went to the hallway to figure out what was going on. Everyone on our floor had smelled the smoke as well and were all beginning to file down the 21 flights of stairs, fearful that something was seriously wrong. Despite the yelling I could hear coming from someone trapped in the elevator, I knew that we weren’t going anywhere. My three kids were nearly asleep, comfortable and safe under the iron wing of the 100 year old building. Maria, the one of the managers at the W, appeared not long after I emailed her in a panic about the smoke having run up all 21 flights to assure me that everything was fine-the kitchen stoves had been shut down immediately once the power went out, sending the smoke to the top of the building.

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I didn’t sleep that night during Hurricane Sandy. I took photos of blacked out Manhattan while holding my family, feeling the building swaying and listening to the shower doors clanking and the water in the sink sloshing. It was an absolutely sickening feeling, waiting for the windows to blow and the wind to cease it’s frightening howling.

The next morning we gathered ourselves and our things and headed outdoors, home bound and unaware of the devastation that occurred all around us. The hurricane was gone, but the storm far from over.

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5th Avenue

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The streets were very quiet aside from the Manhattan residents and rubberneckers wandering around, wide eyed and in a daze while looking for hot coffee. As we rounded the corner on 23rd and headed towards our building (on the East River), things started to look really crazy. Cars were all turned askew, back windows blown out, pop vending machines and wood planks just laying around.

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Our building

It wasn’t until days later that we saw the following video, taken by someone at our building. The FDR, which our living room overlooks, was a river.

We stayed home for two nights without water, power, or heat. The following morning after we returned home, I set out for upper Manhattan to find outlets in order to charge up all of our devices. This might be one of the most significant things I remember from living through this hurricane in NYC-watching how New Yorkers come together during crisis, and the feverish fight to find available power. People were camped out everywhere they could find an outlet.

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Halloween was all but cancelled until a dear friend of ours invited us to their home on the Upper West Side for trick-or-treating in their building. It was an absolute madhouse getting up there, due to the shortage of taxis and the power outage, but driving back downtown in a cab amongst darkened streets was like a terrifying game of Frogger. We almost were hit by several cars and nearly hit a cyclist ourselves. The kids really needed their Halloween this year though… Some semblance of normal.

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This city, with it’s steady and hefty heartbeat, felt completely hollow and quiet with it’s lights out. I hope I never have to experience that again.

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The prognosis for our building’s power and water wasn’t good, so we began to think about our Plan B: Getting out of the city. The opportunities and the sheer luck that we encountered from this point on have blown my mind. Essentially, this blog saved our family from being in a very bad situation.

We packed up the Buick Enclave that I had arranged to loan for apple picking this weekend through GMC Northeast and headed for the Residence Inn in Philadelphia. Months ago I agreed to join a campaign with the Residence Inn after the “Foodcation” I did with them, to be one of their “Residence Inn Moms”-They would provide me with a certain stipend to stay at the hotel whenever we chose to and I would blog about it several times. We had planned a trip to DC for Thanksgiving and a couple of other stops, but plans changed and as it turns out, this was the perfect timing for our experience at the Residence Inn. A hotel room that was not only pet friendly but also had a kitchen and complimentary breakfasts every day was exactly what we needed.

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We packed up and left the city with a full tank of gas (another major blessing as gas has been a major commodity since Sandy hit). It wasn’t until we found ourselves at a divy little gas stop along the Jersey Turnpike eating fast (warm!) food that I finally relaxed. Getting out of NYC was crucial and I finally allowed myself to shed a few tears of relief. We made it to Philly in a couple of hours and have been here ever since.

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Tonight, 8 days after our initial mandatory evacuation, we finally got word that the power, water and gas were restored to our building and we’re able to go home in the morning. Philly has been a wonderful reprieve, the Residence Inn has been a much welcomed and appreciated second home, but we are more than ready to go back to our home in the city.

This ordeal was stressful beyond comparison, but the kids enjoyed the time away without fear of the hurricane, and our little family has truly gotten so much closer and benefitted from the time together. It has been nearly impossible for me to complain or even feel sorry for myself for even a second knowing the devastation and horror that other people have faced as a result of Hurricane Sandy, but I definitely hit some low points of complete frustration and stress.

We are so lucky and even more grateful to have our health and our home, but mostly a family that got through a really rough patch and came away from it stronger. I learned a little about what I’m made of-that I have iron wings of my own that will do anything to protect my family, even when it feels like I cannot move from fear.

I have been consistently surprised and touched by the outpouring of love and resources that I have seen on all of my channels of social media. Everywhere I look I see people helping people, and that is a beautiful thing to come from such an awful disaster. The only way I personally have been able to escape the feelings of “survivor guilt” is by organizing a trip to the Rockaways and/or Staten Island to do a major drop-off of supplies to families that have lost everything. I hope to have more details soon, but I need to get my family in order before locking in any further details. If I’m able to accept more donations to deliver, I’ll post on my twitter and facebook accounts again.

Thank you to all of you that offered everything from their homes to simply listening to me when I needed to vent. I am eternally grateful to all of you for your support, not just for me but for everyone that was affected in some way by Hurricane Sandy. I will not forget your kindness and generosity.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Lorette Lavine November 6, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Glad to read this post and know that you all are finally going home even though it will be somewhat chaotic…it is still home.
What strikes me most about your story is the contrast between the pictures of devastation around you and the smiling faces of your children. Their innocence protected by their parents ,who weathered #sandy. Despite “her” fury you and your husband were able to sustain a smile on your faces and get your kids through this disaster.
Surely, you are all changed in ways yet to be revealed…but you have already started on the road to recovery from this experience.
On a lighter note, I, myself, have been telling my little granddaughter the story of a big storm in NYC and 3 little children’s adventures with their parents. She has been through power failures and hunkering down in the basement with tornado warnings but nothing quite like the magnitude of #sandy.
Today we are stepping out to vote and hope to continue the spirit that keeps us all going…you and your family have that spirit.

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IlinaP November 6, 2012 at 2:12 pm

WOW. I am simply astounded. We see all sorts of hurricane horrors here in North Carolina, but to see that sort of devastation in NYC just blows my mind. So happy you all are OK. Thanks for sharing your story and photos.

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MJ @parscaeli November 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Wow. Thank you for sharing it all. Your story is amazing and photos really bring it to life. xo, MJ

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Jessica November 6, 2012 at 2:21 pm

I lived through your blog and tweets knowing I wasn’t the only NYC mama kinda losing it but somehow holding it all together.

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Susanne@babyhuddle November 6, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Oh my goodness, sounds absolutely terrifying. I’ve watched coverage on the news but reading about it is a completely different thing. Thank goodness you and your family are ok
xx

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YUMMommy November 6, 2012 at 8:55 pm

I was so glad to hear that you all were ok. I was really worried. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers and the connections made via social media. It’s such a blessing to see not only the East coast coming together to help those who were greatly affected by Hurricane Sandy but our nation as a whole working together. I am certainly counting my blessings!

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Anastasia @ eco-babyz November 7, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Wow, quite the unexpected adventure! Sometimes you never know how your blog can ‘come to the rescue’ when you need it :)

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Sue Robinson November 7, 2012 at 5:21 pm

I am so glad to hear you are safe and sound. I knew you were busy, but my frantic texts not being answered worried me even more. Wish I was there to swoop your family up and have you stay with us, the kids running wild and us just breathing. Anything we can do just call. Miss and love you.

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Marta November 7, 2012 at 11:10 pm

I am so glad that you and your family are all fine. Your pictures and all the pictures I’ve seen on the news and online are so horrible. I can’t even imagine the fear you experienced. So glad you’re safe.

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abra November 8, 2012 at 3:47 am

oh, jess, your words are so penetrating. i’m so glad you are able to shine light on this situation so those of us who don’t really understand or grasp what has happened to you, can get a tiny bit more educated and know that we all can do something to help—even if it is just words of encouragement. your family is so beautiful inside and out. your life perspective, always looking at things half full, is amazing. i’m sure you were scared as hell, but yet, you focused on the positive. thank you for sharing such a powerful experience that i’m sure wasn’t easy to put into words.

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Jill @BabyRabies November 8, 2012 at 3:49 am

I am just so happy you’re all okay. What a horrifying experience for anyone, especially for someone responsible for 3 children. We love Residence Inn! It’s always my husband’s hotel of choice when he travels for business. I’m so glad all the opportunities came together for you.

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Nancy Johnson Horn (@Nancy_Horn) November 8, 2012 at 3:54 am

I can’t even imagine how scary it was for you and your family. Glad you are back now.

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Alethea Fitzpatrick November 8, 2012 at 4:03 am

Glad you’re ok, glad you got away, glad you’re coming home again :)

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Kate November 8, 2012 at 7:17 am

What an incredible experience, Jessica. I can not imagine how terrifying the whole thing must have been, especially knowing your kids were depending on you to remain calm. I know my instinct would have been to lose my sh*t, but we just can’t do that when we’re moms. Glad your home now!

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Titania Jordan November 8, 2012 at 8:34 am

You rock those iron wings momma. So glad you are all safe and sound. Your posts were a very clear and sobering reminder of the devastation for those of us who were physically far-removed. xo

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Maria @amotherworld November 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm

So glad that you and your family are safe!

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Heather November 11, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Thank you for sharing your story with us. I can’t imagine what you’ve had to go through! At least you are all safe and the kids seem to be doing well with what is going on. Best wishes to you!

PS. I love my enclave! Don’t you?

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Lara January 25, 2013 at 11:24 am

I just came across your blog (now following) and started reading because my husband and I lived in NYC until our daughter was born. I still miss the city greatly and love reading about your adventures with the kids (I still wish we would have stayed for a little while after our daughter was born, but financially it just didn’t make sense). Anyway, I somehow got to this post on Sandy. My heart ached for the city I love during this time. I’m glad that you’re all safe and you were able to experience the kindness and “pulling together” of so many strangers. You have a beautiful family!

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