They say that most people change when they go through some type of tragedy. I decided to finally share my Hurricane Sandy experience since many people have told me that it’s inspirational. This experience taught me that nothing, absolutely nothing is promised. I learned about loss, what and who I can count on, and most importantly about generosity. Most human beings need four things to live and that is love (family), stability (job), food, and a roof over their heads. If any of these four things are lacking, then we feel out of balance.
That Monday night on October 29th, I was in my kitchen having my dinner and making candles for ‘just in case.’ I called my mom and told her that I was fine, and that I believed that the worst was over. However, I told her that I would check the gutter and clean it in case leaves got trapped in it. I also called my friend Sara and we both laughed at the media hype. I did tell her that I was most afraid about the flooding so that if I heard that the Jamaica bay was flooding that I would be out. I continued eating my dinner, started writing a love poem, and poured myself a glass of wine. I was going to just ride it out. I did however, put my medicine, house keys, ATM, plus some cash in my purse ‘just in case.’ A friend had facebooked me and told me to do it. Many friends were emailing me and checking in on me on that day. I live alone, and my family is about 20 minutes away. I appreciated their concern, but assured them that I was going to be fine.
I went back to the kitchen to continue with the candles that I was making for my friends when I looked out the window and saw that my car was submerged halfway in flood water. Then I ran out to the front door to check the gutter. That is when I saw the water coming straight at me in a constant flow. I didn’t know what to do, and I closed the door as if that would stop the water from coming in. I ran to the room in the back of my apartment, and saw the water gushing in under the door. In panic I started disconnecting the appliances and whatever I could grab on top of the air mattress, sofa, and my bed. However, at one moment I felt this thing telling me to just get out. I had recently been to New Orleans, and the story that stuck in my head was that people died trying to save their things during Hurricane Katrina. I said out loud to myself, “I can’t save you, I gotta go!” I knew at that moment that I had to follow my own instincts, and I ran into my bedroom to put on my jeans. What I find comical now, is that I didn’t even put on my bra nor socks. I grabbed my friend’s clogs that she had left in my house, my purse, and then ran towards the door.
When I tried to open the door, it wouldn’t budge. I was trapped. I pulled and pulled, then I cried. In panic I couldn’t remember that some of my windows didn’t have bars, but who knows if the pressure of the water would have let me pull them open. We had added bars to the windows, because of a theft the previous year. I remembered a TV show that I had watched earlier that night about people finding strength during times of danger. So I thought to myself that this was the time to find my own strength. I called my sister, and told her that I was getting flooded. She hung up the phone, and said that she was coming to get me. I was very lucky to get through to her cell phone that night. I was the only call that got through. I told her to stay put since the hurricane was still going on. She didn’t listen, thank God.
In tears, with my heart racing, water up to my ankles, I prayed out loud. I needed help. I asked God to not let me down. Not tonight. I told him that I knew that he was always there. I had felt his angels help me out before. I couldn’t do it alone. I wasn’t strong enough. “I believe in you. Don’t leave me.” I know it was that prayer that helped me find the physical strength to open the door. The moment I put my hands on the knob, I had help, and the door opened. The water was now up to my knees. I ran out and barely closed the door.
Other people were running out their homes. The tenants who live in the upstairs apartment opened their door, and in tears I explained that I needed to use their phone. They had not lost electricity.
The tenant then looked out the window, and noticed that the water had now reached about four feet high. She hugged me tight, and told me that she had just put on her jeans to go down and check in on me when I knocked on her door. ‘Something’ had told her that she had to go down. She told me that Jesus had saved me, and I replied “I know.” My sister then told me that my neighbor had called because he believed that I was trapped, and that he was going to get me. I have never met that neighbor. She told him that I was able to get out. I believe that when I said that prayer, energy, angels, God…whatever you may call it… got sent out for help, because it all happened at the same time.
My sister, and her friend arrived safely. She had driven around while trees were knocked down, and the streets were flooding. She then looked at my apartment submerged in water, and stared in shock at the door that had opened from the force. There were even fish swimming outside of my door. We saw other people running out of their homes, and the firemen had no idea what to do to help anyone. This was a first for all of us. I watched my life that I had built since I was able to work, buried in five feet of water. The next morning the water had miraculously receded. When I went back in, I saw that my furniture had broken with the force of the water, and most were in different rooms. The refrigerator was upside down, and all of my belongings were buried in piles of mud, and leaves. Everything I had worked for was gone. Once I stepped into my bedroom and saw that my bed was broken in half, I had to run out. I realized then that I could have gotten seriously hurt if I had not ran out in time.
What shocked me even more was that my kitchen table, which contained the candles I was making for friends, a cooking book that my sister had given me, the poem that I had been writing, the flowers that I had picked earlier from the garden, my travel books were all in tact. The table had ‘floated’ in the water, and came back down as if nothing had touched it. That was an altar and representation of me. It had survived the storm. I cried that day, not for the TVs or the material objects, but for the sentimental things that I lost. All of my pictures, trinkets from my travels, keep sakes from loved ones, and the poetry and writing that I had kept since childhood. I found the writing in a pile next to my bedroom door. It was soaked through and through. I kept the pile, and the next day to my dismay, someone had put it out on the yard. When I saw it, the papers were flying all around. I picked up one by one and put them out to dry. I still have that pile of poetry and am typing it out to tell my story. This changed my writing forever. I now don’t want to keep it to myself. I realized that I have a gift and I must share it and help others.
My friend’s family along with my parents helped me with the five day clean up. I washed what I could, and immediately went back to work the following week. Exhausted, and drained. My spirit had taken a huge blow. Then, people started coming out to help me from all areas of my life. I received money, cards, gifts of all sorts from friends and even strangers who heard about my situation. Friends started putting down their credit cards to help me buy stuff like pots and pans, mattresses, food, clothes, and even socks. I went around for a month feeling completely displaced. I wanted my pillow. I had nightmares for about two months that I was drowning or that tsunamis were coming at me. Apparently this happens to people who go through this sort of nature related catastrophes. My Dr. was concerned because my health wasn’t good. The stress that I was under was immense.
However, the love that I got from those that cared to come help me was just as huge. They helped me heal, and rebuild my life. I believe that whatever I had done for others in my life was being repaid. I know that without them, I would not have recuperated everything. I was receiving love in all types of forms. I was changed once again.
I don’t take anyone or anything for granted. When I give love to those that deserve it, I do it as if it’s our last day together. My relationship with the spiritual side of me has strengthened, and I am now sharing this with others. Hence this blog was born. The flood waters took the old Yexenia, and a new one had to get up the next day and continue with life. Without help from my angels, and those that love me, I would not be able to tell this story.