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Left In the Dark, We Switch On Community

Hurricane Sandy reminds us what can happen when people have no choice but to talk to each other and cooperate.

We sat in the dark with only candlelight and flashlights to illuminate our faces and we read to each other.  

The air in the house has been chilly since we lost power from Tropical Storm Sandy Monday night so my husband, sons and I huddled together for warmth. Our house looked like a set from "Phantom of the Opera." As the batteries ran down on the kids' school laptops, they were faced with what sometimes seems like a last resort: talking to their parents, in a conversation, without using their texting thumbs. 

Our older son was in search of a monologue so we started reading aloud from various plays and cracking each other up. It all felt like it had when the boys were little before electronics encroached on our family time. 

I don't mean to romanticize this storm. It has had disasterous consequences, costing lives and homes and done terrible damage to whole towns on the Jersey Shore.

On a more trivial note, I'm a big fan of hot showers and warm homes and electricity for everything, including computers and cell phones. 

Just like with the long power outage that started with the storm about this time last year, friends and family with electricity have been opening up their homes to offer those amenities to us blackout refugees. We carry shampoo, towels and changes of clothes in our cars. 

It's times like these that you see the value of a strong support network built over a thousand cups of coffee and baby-sitting trades, over carpooling and hand-me-downs.

You also see the importance of the unwritten rules we follow in our dealings with strangers. As of this writing, many traffic signals still don't have power, which means drivers at intersections have to take turns. The system doesn't work perfectly, of course. Some drivers go before their turn. But all in all it's pretty impressive that there aren't more accidents and acts of road rage. It's community by necessity. 

"Daily Show" host Jon Stewart talked about this phenomenon at the end of his "Rally to Restore Sanity" at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 2010. He described how drivers trying to merge from several lanes into a tunnel have to work together, regardless of their political differences (as seen on their bumper stickers.)

"You go, then I'll go," he said. "You go, then I'll go."

In times like these, we cooperate and reaffirm our ties to our family, our friends and the greater community because the alternative is a sad, dark place where nothing works.

It's a shame it sometimes takes a storm to remind us of that.  

MS November 01, 2012 at 02:32 PM
The question remains, why is it always tragedy or turmoil that brings people together, why can't we just all.....enjoy one another?....I was out of power since Mon night, it came back last night...I am lucky, no house damage just electrical loss....My entire family is safe....I am lucky....I enjoyed having no power, because we HAD to have discussions...we had to giggle at each other being silly because we had nothing else to do! I think we all need to seriously take the time to focus on each other, our neighbors and our community....we can do it, but it takes effort
Ron Beitler November 01, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Had so much fun during the height of the storm. My brother my g/f and his g/f all huddled up at my parents house. We played apples to apples with flashlights. It was a great TV less night.
greg November 01, 2012 at 06:12 PM
These are great stories!! Unfortunately, these times also bring out the greed and selfishness also. I see countless ads where people truly think it is okay to sell generators for $100s if not $1000s more that what they are truly worth. The greed factor has reared it ugly head, and this is the saddest part. Whatever happened to communities gathering together to overcome disasters??? The great american dollar has become more important to people than helping each other.I not only find myself angry at these people, but also at the fact it is being more rampant. I pray that this will change, but in fact, greed has only gotten worse, while the concept of helping each other has lessened. One day I hope this will change, but till then, we do still have these stories to keep in our thoughts.
Jonathan Gerard November 04, 2012 at 03:16 AM
I sure wish that I, too, had a greed-mometer so I could know that there's so much more greed now than in the good old days.
tamarya November 05, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Then not just people overpricing generators, people are stealing them from traffic lights and those were put there for safety or people that do not believe they still have to stop at a light that is shut off. Then they are complaining about the electric company taking too long, when all they are doing is cutting down the trees the township wanted up.

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