Sandy in Singapore

Being here in Singapore, I experienced hurricane Sandy from a great distance away from the actual storm. But I knew the situation was dire when my sister, Bonni, who lives in Long Beach, NY, stopped making moves in our Words with Friends (WWF) games. Well, I take that back – I already knew conditions were dire from watching Ali Velshi on CNN standing waist-deep in water in the streets of Atlantic City.  (I was grateful that CNN International adjusted its regular international programming to provide non-stop hurricane coverage. However, I have to agree with Michael Moore who complained in an interview with Piers Morgan that some of the coverage was ridiculous and really wasn’t news. But when that’s all the coverage you can get in Singapore, you will sit in front of the tv for hours and watch shots of the same precipitously hanging crane in midtown Manhattan and the waters rising around Ali Velshi over and over  and over again). So, thanks to the CNN team, I had some sense of what was going on, but I didn’t realize how badly members of my own family were being affected – until, that is, my sister stopped playing Words with Friends.

At the time the hurricane started, Bonni and I had four WWF games going on simultaneously and she was winning at least 2, maybe 3 out of 4 of them – and it isn’t like her to let a long pause go by in a game even when she is losing, let alone when she is winning. She is the type of WWF addict who will pester you to make your move even if you are trying to work or it is the middle of the night in your time zone or you are  on the way to the hospital to give birth (we actually didn’t have WWF at the time I gave birth to my youngest child because the internet had only just barely been commercialized, but if we did, I know Bonni would have been nudging me to play my next word). And while I am not quite as demanding of my opponents as she is, I must admit that during the hurricane my thoughts did run to how I would survive if my two arch-nemesis WWF opponents, Bonni and my friend, Sharon in Brookline, MA, were out of commission for any period of time due to the storm. Don’t get me wrong, I was worried, first and foremost, about everybody’s welfare, especially Bonni and her family and my 86-year-old father who also lives in Long Beach (and waited out the storm at Bonni’s house), since, living on a barrier island, they were likely to get hit the hardest of anyone I knew. The communications from my other sister, Laurie, who lives right near the Oyster Bay harbor, and who daily sends me a stream of emails, also ceased at some point, as her neighborhood, like Long Beach, lost power, landlines and the cellular network. When they stopped communicating with me, it felt like I was the one who had been cut off from everything. For some period of time, I was able to intermittently communicate with each of them when they would briefly get cell service, and was relaying messages from Singapore between the two of them. It was a relief to hear from my other two siblings in the Philly area and my daughter back in Cambridge that things were fine where they all were.

My dad in lobby of his apartment building after meeting with FEMA. Estimate is 3-4 months before re-occupancy, but he is still smiling.

For my family on LI, it was a very different story. My sister, Laurie, and her husband were without power, heat and phone service for two weeks and eventually moved in with a friend in a nearby town. In Long Beach, my dad’s apartment building, which is right on the beach and (what remains of) the boardwalk, just finally got power back, but residents still can’t return to their apartments until all the electrical systems can be checked out. He also lost his car which was completely submerged under water in the garage. My sister’s house, which sits on a canal, was completely flooded in the basement but fortunately not much higher up than that and they were just able to move back into their house. My brother-in-law’s business, the Lido Kosher Deli, which has the best corned beef, pastrami, chopped liver, rugellach, matzoh ball soup and split pea soup ever, was shuttered down for two and a half weeks, but is recently back open for business. (Be sure to stop in for a hot dog if you happen to be in the neighborhood helping to rebuild Long Beach). They are among the lucky ones, because their homes and business are still habitable and they have the resources to get through this. Take a look at this video to get a sense of the devastation in Long Beach. It makes you wonder how people who lost everything and don’t have the resources are getting through it.

On a final note, several days after Sandy struck, my sister and her family were finally able to get a hotel room in a nearby town after living in the house with no power, heat, usable water, phone or internet. Sometime after they settled in at the hotel, I got my first notification from Words with Friends since the hurricane that Bonni Goetz had made a move. Although it was a high-scoring word and she was now winning by an even greater margin, I had never been so happy to have one of my toughest WWF opponents pull even further ahead.

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