Rainbows in the Storms

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.  ~ William Arthur Ward

Yesterday I planned to visit my friend, Carol, whose husband and father to their four children died unexpectedly three days after the storm. I drove to Brooklyn to meet her sister, Susan, so that we could travel together.

Even if it were possible to forget Hurricane Sandy, or in the absence of electricity and television images through the storm and afterwards pretend that the place where I grew up was untouched, once I arrived in Brooklyn, the first reminder was the boats piled along Mill Basin.

I drove down the block where I grew up and paused to look at Dad's house, which was still the same except for the new picture window. Either I was not in the mood for another change or it really did not look as good as the old one. Maybe both.

I arrived at Susan's father's where she is living right now, along with her sister, Cookie, and her husband, Bill, as their beautiful home along the harbor of Long Beach was flooded and is at present uninhabitable. Susan said that a surge broke through their steel door and nearly drowned Bill as he attempted to retrieve  what he could from their basement. Thank God for his brother who was there to save him.

Susan and I then drove to meet with one more sister, Joni, in Gerritsen Beach, who'd packed her bag to spend the weekend with Carol to help her.

Anything that Joni and her family had salvaged from their basement that flooded with four feet of water was now stored neat in bins behind the living room sofa. Their entire basement was then gutted. But now there was a new problem: the fire department had been contacted because there was smoke in their home, and the smell of burning rubber.

While we all stood in the November air, the screech of sirens approached as fire trucks rounded the narrow corner and until the block was filled with trucks, whirling red lights and firemen, carrying tools (which naturally made me think of Dad and his life-long profession.) They investigated the toxic odor and delivered good news: there was no fire behind the smoke. Not so good: the boiler had been ruined from the salt water. And then bad news:

The heat was out once again.

Neighbors gathered around Joni, who'd been a rock for others over the past few months. She now appeared sunk for the first time, as though she'd suffered a final blow.

But because there is no place like Brooklyn for comeraderie and fellowship in hard times, as the neighbors entered her gate and shared their own stories of survival and recovery, Joni grabbed a bottle of bubbly, some cheapo cups from the house and poured away. She and all the neighbors (and Susan and I) raised our plastic cups and toasted to friendship, and to life. And (even before anybody got buzzed) she was offered everything that she and the fam needed from housing to food. 

We never made it to Carol's, and Carol was cool with it, tired from a long day of activity. My husband rode the train from the City, and we all indulged our favorite: Brooklyn pizza.

This morning, to my surprize, Joni phoned and said thank you, that her house did not feel cold last night, filled with so many people, asking what they could do, sharing their own stories of downed trees and floods. Today she found somebody to replace her boiler.

I cannot recall a time of greater upheaval and loss or remember when I have witnessed as much kindness and love.