Photo Essay

Good News, Bad News, No News

Table For None

Who knew? We all did. Sandy was coming, and the news inundated the airwaves with predictions and warnings that declared that this was going to be a bad storm--maybe even the worst in history. Often the difference between hearing and listening can be the same that it is between understanding and not. Who, today, pays attention to the car alarm that goes off in the middle of the mall parking lot, versus 20 years ago? Certainly fewer. Some, like myself, escaped the extreme damage and loss from Sandy through an unmeasurable amount of luck and good fortune--not so much wisdom. Like so many other times, we 'rolled-the-dice' and 'rode-it-out'; however, this time was different--just not that noticeable right away.

This time the fence didn't make it. I was furious. I stayed up most of the night to watch it slowly disintegrate into the wind, and swore I'd find a way to get even with the handyman who installed it years ago. (In actuality, it had been disintegrating over time, and made it through several Nor'easters and Irene) To digress a bit: During the day several of us from the neighborhood took a tour of the area around the Raritan Bay, and (at about lunchtime) we were already getting 3-ft waves where 6-in. waves were and are rarely common. At about 2:30, the waves were at about the same size, but became rougher and more frequent. At about 4:30, I could no longer hold a camera to take a shot, and several trees had had already fallen in the middle of our existing, very narrow path to the water. The waves were now about 6-10 ft high--coming in through 3 sections, one right after another, and it was at that point that I knew we were in for the storm of a lifetime. I was officially scared out of my pants for our lives. (As well as for those things that what we had worked for- for over 30 years- that was about to be destroyed and scattered to the wind in about perhaps a matter of hours.) We did not venture out after 5:00 PM, and the power went out somewhere soon after. We sat on the second-floor bed -with the 3 dogs- for the next 10 hours, and rock-and-rolled with the rest of the house. During the span of the night I sat by the bedroom window (as it were a poor substitute for our TV) and noticed out in the distance, over the waters between the Raritan Bay and NYC/Staten Island, blue lights silently, exploding. It wasn't till the next day that I found out that these were transformers circuming to the storms relentless intensity. Surreal is the best word I can use to describe the whole night. We got a few hours of sleep, and woke to the first signs of daylight. The fence didn't survive, but, much more importantly, the house and we did.

At some point that next day, the local radio station came back on the air, and it was only then that we got an idea about the magnitude of the storm that was in which in the process of passing through the northeast area. The 'Superstorm' brought little rain; however, the wind damage, just in our neighborhood alone, was the worst I'd ever seen--first hand. Because the storm landed at about high-tide and under a full-moon, the water damage was specific to those things on and/or right next to bodies of water. The radio broadcasts could not prepare us for the reality of the true measure of damage caused by Sandy, until days later when we ventured out past the Keyport Marina off of Route 35--in search of food and gas. We saw several cars pulled off to the side of the highway, and were shocked to see boats piled one on top of the other--spread out all over the place in various positions--few actually in the water where they belonged. Little was actually the way it should have been normally. I balked at taking pictures, and still do--especially when people are around.

Our power came back last Tuesday evening, the same day I was able to get my hands on a (cancelled-order) generator from Sears. (That experience was a nightmare unto its own) With weather patterns, the way they've been, I think it was still a good investment. (especially, since we're moving to Florida....ASAP......pleeeeeaaaaassssse!)

Camping-out sucks, and the time without the amenities of modern society really blew; however..........after listening to the horror stories of others and seeing just some of the damage to surrounding towns I have gotten in touch with some real and genuine gratitude. It's been only a few weeks, and the stories continue to filter in. Like with all tragedies, the best and the worst of humanity is always revealed; however, the 'best' is all that I'm interested in and can handle right now. Over time I've come to believe that one is either part of the problem or part of the solution, and that ' real recovery' can not be done alone. There is 'good news' and there is 'bad news'; however, over the last several weeks I've come to find that the most painful thing is 'no news'.

I pray for peace and a speedy-recovery for all. JamesHarmon

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—The JPG team

21 responses

  • Michele Wambaugh

    Michele Wambaugh   said (15 Nov 2012):

    What a wonderful essay & photography, James! Thanks for sharing with those of us far away! BRAVO!

  • Deborah Downes

    Deborah Downes   gave props (15 Nov 2012):

    Powerful essay, James. Thankful you and your family are okay.

  • Saroj Swain

    Saroj Swain gave props (15 Nov 2012):

    Fabulous shots and narration... .... Vote!!!

  • Bailey Cooper

    Bailey Cooper   said (15 Nov 2012):

    This is a first-rate photo essay. Just because one can shoot does not mean one can write. It is the coupling of both that separate the men from the boys. The writer must be able to draw the viewer/reader into the emotions of the story. It is all about human voyeurism... our desire to experience every nuance and the depth of the anguish that keeps us reading to the final punctuation mark.

    So many photo essays have one part or the other. So many photo essays are expository, devoid of feeling or emotion... just the facts ma'am... just the facts. If you find yourself glazing over 4 sentences in, the writing should not be presented in photo essay format. You have allowed us to be present in the moment, literally and photographically. Well done.

  • Nancy Richard

    Nancy Richard gave props (16 Nov 2012):

    One of the best stories I've ever read........you outdid yourself, James. Don't know why you'd want to move to Florida, though. Hurricanes there are more frequent and worse.

  • Vin Weathermon

    Vin Weathermon   gave props (16 Nov 2012):

    This is a great accounting of the reality there; I am glad you are there to capture the "good" coming from the "horribly bad" of that storm. I'm sure you are a good neighbor to have out there...

  • Fred Moskey

    Fred Moskey   gave props (16 Nov 2012):

    Excellent story, very well told. Your description of what a storm can do and your emotions are perfect!

  • John Linton

    John Linton gave props (17 Nov 2012):

    Hell YEAH! Rad!

  • John Linton

    John Linton said (17 Nov 2012):

    We live in Westerly, RI...several hundred miles from where Sandy made landfall...and yet, our beaches suffered extensive damage...We judge everything by the '38 Hurricane which devestated Westerly...We've had nothing that bad since...But Sandy ranks right up there with the '54 Hurricane as the next two most damaging storms to hit our coast...We were finally allowed to view the damage to the beach properties on Veterans Day...

  • Sonia Adam Murray

    Sonia Adam Murray   gave props (17 Nov 2012):

    A brilliant composition together with great photos James. I am sorry for the damage you received but am delighted that you and your loved ones are safe!!!

  • Susan Littlefield

    Susan Littlefield   gave props (18 Nov 2012):

    I am in awe of your incredible storm of the night of Sandy! I simply cannot imagine going through something like that. I appreciate your sensitivity in not taking a lot of photos; just viewing the damage must be hard to take! I am so thankful that you survived the storm with comparatively little damage, and I certainly would not blame you for wanting to move!! Hell hath no fury like Mother Nature!! Voted yes on this amazing and impactful essay.

  • Yaz Hawkins

    Yaz Hawkins said (19 Nov 2012):

    Wow! That was some an angry storm! Terrific story, great but sad pictures, James!

  • Yaz Hawkins

    Yaz Hawkins said (19 Nov 2012):

    Voted!

  • Donna Mullins

    Donna Mullins   gave props (20 Nov 2012):

    A wonderful heartfelt essay James. Voted!

  • Chuck Homler

    Chuck Homler said (20 Nov 2012):

    I've been meaning to read your essay for a while because some of the images looked familiar to me. My grandfather lives in Hazlet, and I grew up in Marlboro about 15 minutes down Rt 79 from you. I had friends in Keyport and have friends in other areas around the bayshore. You really capture the devastation with your images and your words.

    I remember the Nor'easter in 1992. I thought that was the worst. Sandy Hook became an island. I can't believe what happened with Sandy.

  • Richard Gough

    Richard Gough   gave props (23 Nov 2012):

    This is wonderful and a great personal account of Sandy, well done!

  • Carlos Aviles

    Carlos Aviles gave props (24 Nov 2012):

    Excellent work

  • Michaela K.

    Michaela K. gave props (24 Nov 2012):

    my vote

  • Sarah Springer

    Sarah Springer   gave props (25 Nov 2012):

    Peace and best wishes.....very heartfelt and agree with Bailey

  • Massimo Bardelli

    Massimo Bardelli   said (29 Nov 2012):

    Great reportage, Bravo!

  • Robert R. Gaines

    Robert R. Gaines gave props (14 Dec 2012):

    *****'s for your writting and images James.

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