WARNING: These next few posts are incredibly dark. Read at your own risk.
To commemorate the one year anniversary of Sandy, I thought I’d tell my own story of what I saw that night and how I felt.
I could probably write a hundred posts about the stuff I experienced during Sandy. I could write a book about the PTSD I experienced after…the fears, the horrors, the nightmares (which I still occasionally have). I’ve never told the full story, not really. I’ve told it in pieces, but I’ll do my best to recreate it here (not hard, since it’s still so fresh in my mind)
But I’ll start like this: I’ve never looked death in the eye until October 29, 2012.
And I didn’t blink.
Now, that makes me sound like a hero or something. I’m not. I’m not even particularly brave. But when faced with the prospect of dying–while just doing your job–you have to be brave.
So here’s my story, as much as I can remember it from that night, almost a year ago.
We were stationed out by the boardwalk, right next to the Ocean Breeze Fishing Pier. I was the 4pm-4am shift, but for these purposes, all you really need to know is that during that time the storm hit.
And boy, did it hit.
I got to the boardwalk to meet the news truck, which was already at the pier. I took my camera out of my work car, but left my tripod in the trunk. I never realized that was the last time I’d ever drive that car again.
I got in the news truck and began talking to the driver and reporter. All of the sudden, I felt the truck shaking. It kind of freaked me out, but I knew this wasn’t the worst it would get.
The truck operator told us that the truck was shaking too hard to put up the satellite dish. So we had to find a place where it would be sheltered by a building.
We decided to drive down along the boardwalk to find a better spot. The truck op and the reporter told me to leave my car in the parking lot, and that we’d come back for it later.
That was my first mistake, listening to them.
We drove down along a road that’s typically only used by pedestrians and Parks Department vehicles. Finally, we found a building that would shelter the satellite dish. We set up shop there, putting the camera on the boardwalk behind the building.
The wind was starting to pick up. There were people walking the boardwalk, some with their kids and dogs. At the time, I thought they were stupid–and how I wouldn’t be there at all if I had the choice.
Now I know we were all taking our lives in our hands.
We interviewed some people, but then the crowd thinned out a bit. The reporter and the truck op went back to the truck. I was supposed to watch the camera to make sure nothing happened to it.
Here’s the thing…I work with a small camera. I had only worked with the big camera they use for live shots once before–during Hurricane Irene. And the truck op had helped me out a lot. So I barely had any idea how to use the camera, let alone get it off and on the gigantic tripod.
So when the wind started picking up even more, I couldn’t take the camera down. Instead, I held onto it for dear life.
I also started yelling for the truck op, but because he was inside the truck several yards away, he couldn’t hear me.
Finally, the reporter and truck op came back out. By this time, the waves had picked up too. I pointed this out to them while the truck op took down the camera.
“We should get that on camera,” the reporter said, pointing to the gigantic waves, which were cresting nearer and nearer to where we were standing.
Thankfully, they let me use the small camera. But I had to do it handheld. So of course, being the spaz I am, I almost fell into the ocean.
But as I neared them, I noticed something. The water was coming up so close that soon it would be below us.
That was when we decided to move. We packed up the truck and headed to a nearby parking lot. By this point, the waves were spewing out under the boardwalk, into the lot.
It soon became clear that if we didn’t move, we were going to be stuck there indefinitely. So the truck op gunned the gas and sped through the water, down Father Capodanno Boulevard, which runs parallel to the beach.
Along the way, we passed by the fishing pier parking lot, where my car was parked. The water had risen so quickly, it was already up to the bumper.
“There’s nothing we can do,” the truck op said as we drove by. “The water is probably already in the exhaust pipe. You probably won’t be able to start it.”
I couldn’t believe it. It wouldn’t end up like that, I thought. We’d go back tomorrow, and the car would start. I was sure of it.
But as we turned onto a street heading inland, I wondered if I could really believe in anything anymore.