Sandy triggers memories of a childhood storm--and a reunion of friends

By Alice Elliott Dark
November 13, 2012

Our Voices from the Storm series shares personal experiences during mega-storm Sandy. We hope you'll be cheered, comforted, and enlightened by these perspectives—and that you'll consider donating to storm recovery. 

Flashback to 50 years ago:
"No," I was told.
"You can't go outside yet. It isn't safe."

There'd been a storm three days earlier in Cape May. I had sat out on the porch with my grandfather when the storm first hit and watched the sea crash against the sea wall and send huge plumes of water high into the sky. It had taken the house catty-corner to us into the sea, and shattered our brick chimney. Bricks were still slipping off the roof and might fall onto my head as I went down the steps. Pieces of the destroyed house were still all over the street, and I might step on a nail. My friends were out playing anyway. My siblings and I were the only ones being kept inside.

The rinsed sky, the sparkling water, the sand suddenly on the road, invited play. I was sick of my family, and of being allowed only as far outside as the porch. My friends stood below and whined for me to climb over the railing and jump down, but the adults had said no, so I wouldn't go.

I wished that I had gotten trapped at a friend's house. I was bored. My siblings and I were sick of each other. The chimney repair man was busy, though--we'd have to wait our turn.

This memory dominated my thoughts on the third night after mega-storm Sandy came through our town in New Jersey. Nearly the whole area lost power, and from the look of the number of trees down on lines, it wouldn't be back soon. On the third day I was able to charge my phone, and to make plans to go to a friend's house, where a generator created normalcy. Come over, they said. I had no one to stop me, so my husband and I went.

As we sat around the fire, more friends came by. Coincidentally, we were a group of friends who'd known each other since childhood, who'd all happened to move to the same town. They'd all been to the house in Cape May. I described that storm that kept me inside for days, and they described storms they remembered. Sandy was more frightening than any storm we'd known, but the pain was mitigated for us, as it has been for thousands of people, by doing what we were--going over to friends' houses, and sharing.

Alice Elliott Dark is the author of 4 books: Naked to the Waist (stories and novellas), The Betty Book (humor), In the Gloaming (stories), and Think of England (a novel.) Her stories and essays have been widely published and anthologized, including in The New Yorker, Harper's, Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Prize Stories, and The New York Times. She lives in Montclair, New Jersey.