Sandy Hits Close To Home

I’ve lived on the west coast most of my adult life, but was born and raised near the Jersey shore.  Many of my relatives still live in the area and none of them lost their home—or more importantly—their life in one of the most destructive storms ever to hit the east coast.  Despite the cold temperatures and lack of electricity for days on end, they endured, they survived.

Others throughout the region were not as fortunate and no words can comfort those who lost loved ones or watched helplessly as their homes and a lifetime of possessions were either swept out to sea or buried beneath soggy piles of debris.

Some of the saddest, most heartrending images of Sandy’s destruction were the people searching through the mud and the muck for their cherished family photos.  Not only had this monster storm wreaked havoc on their present and future lives, its mayhem also reached into their past.

Residents had no idea what they would find as they sifted through the scattered rubble that might contain bits and pieces of their former lives.  You could see the frozen resignation and stunned acceptance of loss on their faces, occasionally giving way to fresh tears of thanks as a piece of an old photo, like a hand rising from a grave, would catch their eye and be brought back from the dead.  A mud splattered picture of a son, a daughter or a parent smiling in happier times at a Thanksgiving dinner or flipping burgers on the backyard grill.

Stained and smeared, they may not look like much now, but any rescued image surely will be treasured and passed down to future generations, not only for who is in the photo, but for how it found its way back home.

Some who lost photos may be able to rebuild their memories using copies of pictures from family members who were outside of Sandy’s destructive path.  And going forward there will be more photos taken as families build new memories.  But for those who lost their homes, the physical building is gone forever.  Even rebuilding on that very spot will not bring the old house back.  There will be no new pictures of places once called home.  I’m reminded of that sad truth every time a natural disaster strikes.

Ten years ago my wife and I decided to sell our house and move into an apartment.  The boys were grown and the house was too much for two people.  We loved our home and wanted to remember it as it was when we lived there, so a week before the movers came I shot and narrated a video about the house, stopping in every room, every nook and cranny, every square foot of the house, inside and out.  California is no stranger to natural disasters, so a backup copy of that video is a thousand miles away safe with my son in Washington state.

I’ve also uploaded to the Cloud around 150 GB of recent digital and old scanned photos, my entire music library and most of the files on my computer’s hard drive.  In addition, everything is backed up on an external hard drive in case I ever need to grab it and run.   Still, some family memories remain vulnerable with way too many slides, negatives and photos yet to be copied.

Regardless of where we live, we are not immune to natural or manmade disasters.  The time to think about protecting your irreplaceable family photos is now, not as the water is rising or the ground beneath you begins to shake violently.  Two Wall Street Journal articles here and here can inspire and help you preserve your family memories.  And if you’d like to share pictures taken in or around a fondly remembered home, check out wikiHomePages.

There’s something special about the place we call home.  It’s our safe haven where we kick off the shoes we wear in the outside world, slide into a comfortable pair of slippers and lean back in our easy chair.  It’s where we close our eyes at night confident that when we wake up the next morning everything will be as we left it, as it was before.  Normal.  Hope all those affected by Superstorm Sandy return there soon.

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