People First

It’s been an interesting couple of months here in New Jersey. First, in August, an earthquake rocked us, and while it was fortunately a minor event in seismological terms, it scared lots of folks. I was in my office meeting with two women – as soon as we realized the quake was over we each, without a word, grabbed our phones to call our husbands. The seismic event became a people-to-people event, as we connected with each other, our loved ones, our friends, and the world. A friend from Israel was quick to write, having seen the posts on Facebook. She wanted to be sure I was ok. At the end of the day, what we remember most from that day not the earthquake itself, which was inconsequential, but the way we reached out to each other in an uncontrollable festival of caring and friendship.

Then Hurricane Irene hit later in August, and despite the meteorological observation that it was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it hit New Jersey, we still refer it as “the hurricane,” since its impact in our area was significant. Thousands of trees and limbs fell, doing their damage along the way. Floods filled basements, some homes, and many businesses. Many people went without power for several days, losing all their cold food, enduring the hot August week in stuffy homes. Nerves were frayed. But once again, what I remember most was the connections between people. We reached out to each other to see how we could help, offering hands-on cleanup, referrals to reliable contractors, and lots of emotional support. As our area ground to a near-halt in the aftermath, we remembered to be more patient and compassionate. We took lots of deep breaths and felt gratitude for the opportunity to recover and go on.

The old superstition that bad things happen in “three’s” seemed to be a predictor by the time we hit the last weekend in October. There we were on that Shabbat, celebrating a lovely bat mitzvah watching heavy, wet snow steadily fall throughout the day. It was beautiful. Like the earthquake, it took us by surprise, except this time, the awakening to the surprise was in slow motion. We had heard it could snow, but nobody took it seriously since it had been a temperate autumn until then. The leaves were still on the trees and it had just been 68 degrees a few days earlier; no way this could be a snow event worthy of worry.

Posted on November 14, 2011

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