NEW YORK —
What if water fills the first floor? Do we huddle upstairs? Punch a hole through to the attic and climb up there? Do we even try to stay in the house, and if so, for how long? Could we swim to safety out the front door?
Incredibly, the longest few hours of my life ended almost as suddenly as they began. Almost too subtle to notice at first, the water lost its surging power and began to subside. Our kids, oblivious to all that was going on, were already fast asleep. Daria and I sat in the living room for hours in the dark, save for the glimmer of a few candles, listening to the splash, like clockwork every few minutes, as our possessions fell into the water. Just when we started making a list of what was lost beneath the two feet of sewage in the basement came the biggest splash of all — our huge refrigerator.
I took a few steps downstairs and stopped. A sea of sewage was sloshing side to side and the stench — I can still smell it. I doubt it will leave me anytime soon.
Somehow, I slept about three hours that night. When I stepped back outside, I could see the same wear and tear on the faces of my neighbors. But we quickly took stock of one another and our families and began comparing notes. The damage on every side was heartbreaking. Grace and husband, Nicky, had nearly six feet of water in their basement and lost everything, including her father's ashes. But we were all alive.
We had no power, gas, heat, even cellphones with a charge — and no way to communicate with anyone outside our tiny corner of the world. The bakery and the deli across the street were flooded. Three 20-foot-long heavy metal box containers that sat in front of the Walgreen's were scattered down the block, one finally settling in front of a restaurant more than 100 yards away.