I’ve seen disaster reports before, but this is the first time I’ve recognized pictures.

There, behind the reporter standing shin-deep in ocean water, is the street to my friend’s house. There’s Governor Christie, striding along the boardwalk where I spend my summers. That’s my gas station with a three-hour wait and odd-even rationing, and I know that blown-down building. That’s my Jersey Shore, filling up screens across the country.

I wasn’t home when Sandy hit. My family agreed it would be safer for me to stay in Mendham (near Morristown) at my roommate’s relatives’ house. Logically, it was the best decision—the storm was still strong, but less dangerous than it was for the coast. We didn’t lose power completely until 7:30 p.m. Monday night, and all of the trees around the house stayed up. There was hot water and enough food for 20 college students, let alone two. We could charge phones and computers at the firehouse where my roommate’s uncle worked, and there was a fireplace to keep us warm. I stayed there until Halloween. For me, those few days were the worst of the week.

Our hosts were lovely—their house was our house. But as I sat doing homework by daylight and flashlight, their battery-powered radio crackled out damage reports and their charged iPads and phones were full of pictures of home. It’s strange to see AP disaster photos of your own area. It’s stranger still to see them while you’re sitting safely somewhere else. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should have been there. All I wanted was to go home.

My parents came to get me on Wednesday. The roads were passable, and I was allergic to the Mendham house’s dog. Driving back through my neighborhood in Oakhurst, 10 minutes north of Belmar, was better than any Halloween cornfield maze. The power lines that weren’t draped across the road were looped along bushes like Christmas lights, or wrapped around the massive trees that had fallen every which way, regardless of fences, houses or streets. My family was lucky—only one tree hit our house, causing minor external damage.

The rest of my Sandy vacation was actually fun. There was no power or hot water, and I didn’t do any more homework. All three of the generators we borrowed broke down somehow. But I love an adventure, and my family isn’t the type to stay dispirited for long. Since all of us were home, we took our Christmas card picture, sitting on the tree that hit our house, with an axe, saw and chainsaw wrapped in bows. On the nights we had a generator, we gathered around a computer screen for family movie night. I learned four new card games, pet horses at my brother’s riding lesson and the food was still better than Commons. Sure, there was no power and trees down. But that only meant we could see more stars.

–Katie Yasser C’15

This article originally appeared in the Acorn on November 9, 2012.

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