NEW YORK —
Finally, we turned our attention to cleaning up. A neighbor named Ben, who is Grace's son-in-law and works as a construction contractor, came over and began pulling up the carpeting in our basement, then the flooring, before turning his attention to the walls. In the "dream" kitchen we felt so fortunate to have just a few nights earlier, a FEMA inspector sat, compiling a list of the damage.
You learn a lot about people in bad times and what we learned is how neighbors opened their arms to each other, offering food, water, clothes — anything that might help someone else. We were the new family in town, but we've forged bonds and relationships that will make exchanging "Hello" or "Have a good day" feel genuine in a way they didn't always before.
A long, tiring road lies ahead, but the doubts that crop up will be easier to deal with knowing we're going through it together. Just a few miles away, people died and homes were completely destroyed. Seeing the scale of destruction in TV reports from my parents' home in Brooklyn broke my heart all over again.
I spent three days digging through those things I'd cherished all my life. I put nearly all of them on the side of the house, saying a sort of goodbye to so many material things.
And yet, once the sun managed to peek through the clouds, it hit me: We were blessed. We turned out to be among the truly lucky ones.