“Do you hear that?” I said to my husband, as the howling winds rattled our windows.
“Yup,” he answered. Here it comes.”
It was October 2012, and we were bracing ourselves for Sandy, the superstorm that rocked the Northeast, resulting in flooding, weeks-long power outages, and damages surpassing $36 billion in New Jersey alone.
In my hometown of Avon, NJ, the memory of the storm from 5 years ago remains vivid. Earlier this summer, the rebuilt beach pavilion was finally unveiled, and we often see houses being raised to prevent future damages. Walk into any local business, and there’s a good chance you’ll see the haunting photo of the roller coaster in Seaside Heights that was pushed out into the ocean, or boardwalks that were completed destroyed.
But for me, the only concern I had before, during, and after the storm were my then 4-month-old twins, and for good reason. As soon as Sandy touched down, we lost power, forcing us to pack up the babies, the formula and diapers we had (thankfully) stocked up on, and head out in search of a place with running water and heat.
We were lucky — extremely lucky — because we had somewhere to go, splitting time between my father-in-law’s house and my sister’s home as we awaited the power to be restored. And although we ended up being nomads for more than two weeks, we knew others had it worse. There were people who lost everything — their homes, cars, and business. There were cancer patients who couldn’t make it to chemotherapy appointments — or worse, faced cancellations. There were people whose places of employment were closed, meaning no paychecks for the time being.
But the one that really got me was the staff at NYU Langone Medical Center who carried NICU babies down nine flights of stairs while nurses manually squeezed a bag to deliver air into their lungs. As someone whose own babies were just three months removed from the NICU, I felt for every one of those parents.
And in fact, when Sandy hit, it had only been a month since my son Austin was taken off of his apnea monitor. Had he not been cleared, we would’ve been frantically searching for a place with enough power for his battery pack.
But he was cleared, and my babies weren’t in the NICU during Sandy. We were lucky.
This past week, so many people in Texas haven’t been so lucky. According to one report, about 3,500 people have been rescued, and more than 10,000 have taken refuge inside the Houston convention center. And that’s by no means the most disturbing statistic. Here are some more that show just how devastating Hurricane Harvey has been:
- 50 inches of rain have fallen in some places, shattering storm records for the continental US
- About 30 percent of Harris County is under water (as a reference point, that’s about 530 miles, more than twice the size of Chicago)
- 19 trillion gallons of water has fallen on Texas since the storm began (that total, by the way, is enough to cover all of Alaska, California, and Texas in about an inch of water)
And, as is often the case with natural disaster, access to care has become a challenge. So far, 23 hospitals in the Houston area have had to evacuate patients, and another 25 are vulnerable to shutting down, making what is already a stressful time for patients and their families even worse.
When I think back on my own experience — which, of course, pales in comparison to what Houston is dealing with — I remember how scary it was. I can recall rocking the babies that first night in their portable cribs (which we had moved into our room), thinking, “What’s going to happen? How bad it is going to get?”
For the victims of Harvey, it has gotten bad, and it could get worse. So please keep the people of Texas in your thoughts, and don’t hesitate to offer any type of aid you can, whether it’s donating money, giving blood, a hosting a “giving challenge” (for a list of ideas, click here). Or maybe it means reaching out to friends or colleagues in the area to see if you can help in any way.
These people are dealing with one of the worst floods in history; the least we can do is reach out our hands to them.