I watched the sun set this week down at a storm-ravaged beach, and I realized that while the sun rises and the sun sets, pretty much everything else changes.
It’s Thanksgiving week, but for thousands of people on Long Island it will be a holiday season unlike any other. It will be a day of giving thanks for survival, for shelter, for food and for friends. And humming in the background will be the still-fresh noise of crashing waves and the eerie silence of rising water.
So many residents of our communities still wonder at the devastation — the ruined homes and businesses. Their work lives are disrupted and their nights are uneasy. What will be? How will we rebuild? Who will help us? When will we feel normal again? Is it safe to live here?
Still, it feels right to celebrate Thanksgiving with a brief timeout for good food and the company of friends and family. How lucky we are to live in a country where the food and clothing and money started flowing toward those in need even before the tidal waters retreated.
It feels OK, even in the midst of loss, to remember all that we have.
One friend said she really feels thankful for electricity, and no wonder: She didn’t have any for 12 days. A woman I know said that for as long as she lives, she will cherish the friends who took her and her kids and her dog into their home for a week. They fed her and cheered her up and held her hand through the worst of times.
I feel grateful that my home was safe from the storm and we could offer help to others in the first days after the hurricane. I’m still feeling thankful for the heat that comes wafting out of the radiators and the hot water that flows from the faucets. I never thought much about that before.
I meet neighbors whose eyes well up as they recount the sight of water rising in their living rooms, flooding the homes they’ve lived in for decades, washing away photo albums and books and memories. And yet, every single one has said to me, “There are people worse off. At least we have …” Fill in the blank: friends, family, enough food, a place to go for Thanksgiving dinner.
This year, we will travel for Thanksgiving so that we can sit down with children and grandchildren and my parents, who at 89 and 93 are blessings unto themselves, and us as well.