When we got to my boss’s house, we realized there was no power.
I haven’t mentioned yet, but it was cold. This was at the end of October. For reference, several days later, it snowed. So we were freezing.
But it was nice to be inside, even if the wind was howling and we could only see by flashlight.
My boss asked me if I had called my parents. I hadn’t. This is particularly weird, since I am very close to them. But it was literally the last thing on my mind.
I called them and reassured them that I was safe inside with my boss and her family and the rest of our crew.
After we got ourselves settled, we went upstairs to talk with my boss. While the reporter filled her in on what we had seen, I entertained her kids while eating their Halloween candy. When one of the kids got too close to the window, I would try to distract them by calling them over to tell me something. No one wanted to say the truth, which was that the winds had gotten so bad that a tree could easily fall right through the picture windows in their living room and kill them.
Soon, I was tired. It was only about 10 at night, but I felt like it was 4am. I fell asleep on their couch, wondering how I was going to get home when my car was still at the beach and probably wouldn’t start.
At 1am, the truck op woke me up. The station wanted another live shot, and we were the only crew left in the field with a working truck.
So I trudged down the stairs and went outside. It was even colder now, and the winds hadn’t exactly died down.
My fingers were shaking and my teeth were chattering. I kept going back into the truck, using the excuse that I had to charge my cell phone. But the truth was, even in my sweatshirt and raincoat and rain-pants, I was cold.
It was about 2am when they finally said they would take us. We could hear the station through our earpieces. They were taking a phone call from one of our reporters, who was in City Island. From the sound of it, she was watching the storm through a hotel room window.
“They’re taking a phoner? While we’re freezing our asses off?” The reporter screamed.
I felt the same way. Finally, they took us. I wondered who was watching, since most everywhere seemed to be without power.
In our live shot, the reporter noted that we had gotten word that a teenage girl had died.
I immediately assumed she had been one of those stupid people walking out on the boardwalk during the storm. It was sad, but if you do something stupid, you risk the consequences, right?
I found out later that her name was Angela. She was 13. She had been in her house, when the water came up to the top floor. She and her parents huddled together, holding each other, until the house was completely swept away. Angela and her father died. Her mother miraculously survived by holding onto someone’s porch for several hours.
Their house once stood next to the beach, but was now gone completely. The houses next to theirs had stood, but only because they were made of concrete. Only the concrete slab that held the stairs was left…leading to an empty pit filled with debris.
But I didn’t know that at the time. I thought poor Angela was just being an idiot.
After the live shot, I went back upstairs and immediately fell asleep. I woke up several hours later, noting that my phone had died.
The truck had gone to another part of the Island to continue news coverage. The reporter had also left. I didn’t have to be back in until 4pm.
My boss and her husband offered to drive me home. We don’t live far apart–maybe 5 minutes. But the trip took a lot longer because there were trees down everywhere and no traffic lights.
I hadn’t talked to my parents since the previous night. I honestly wondered if they were still alive. We always lost trees during big storms. I had no way of knowing what I would find when I got there.
But thankfully, when I arrived at home, my parents were outside assessing the damage. I ran to hug them. I couldn’t believe I was so lucky.
We had lost part of our roof. A tree fell, thankfully away from the house, crushing the hedges. If it had fallen in the other direction, it probably would have gone through a window.
I sat in my bed, sort of explaining to my parents what I had seen. They tried to calm me down. But I couldn’t listen. All I could do was rock back and forth, in a state of panic.
There wasn’t anything I could do. But I would have to go back out, at 4pm, and see what had happened.