Natural disasters like Sandy, the hurricane that struck the east coast of the United States, Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba and other nations of the Carribean provoke the question: Where is God in all of this? “It’s a wake-up call,” a woman ahead of me at the polling booth on election day said.
Jesus said the same thing when he spoke of a falling tower that killed 18 people in Siloam. (Luke 13,4-5) Natural disasters are part of the “signs of the times” that call us to repent.
They keep us real about life. The storm surge from Hurricane Sandy came in from the ocean and hit my sister’s house in Lake Como, NJ, around 9:30 PM, Monday evening, October 29th, 2012. Power had gone off around 5PM. I heard what I thought was a clap of thunder, but actually it was part of the foundation of the house under the bedroom where I was sleeping falling down before the surge of water. Looking out the back window I could see waves of waters breaking against the house and I could hear driving winds shaking the trees.
In the front of the house facing the street I could see the surge of water breaking over my sister’s car parked in the driveway. The waters came up to the first step on the porch of her house and then stopped. In the dark I couldn’t see anything beyond what was lit by a small flashlight.
The next day the waters subsided and you could see fish from Lake Como jumping in the streams of water on the street. Outside my bedroom window I saw a heron diving for fish in the waters in our backyard.
Most of the people on 21st Street stayed through the storm; a number of them had generators. They were out on the streets the next day cleaning up and assessing the damage which along the Jersey Shore must be in the millions of dollars. They were thankful to be alive. My sister abandoned the house.
There was kindness that day. Dave from down the street came with two cups of coffee. Richie from across the street pushed my sister’s car from the watery driveway to a higher part of the street. Bill and Joe tried to get her car started but to no avail. Susan and Bob came to drive her to a friend’s house and me to the rectory.
There were offers of food, shelter, showers. Cell phones were charged, water was provided. So much was lost, but it also brought a sense of reality: “Naked I came into this world, and naked I shall return.”
Also, I could hear a favorite saying of my mother: “We got this far.”
Here’s a video of that storm: