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By B.L. Ochman

First of all, to all those who are still suffering the after effects of Hurricane Sandy, my heart breaks seeing the devastation, and my deepest wish is for your recovery to go smoothly.

My elderly parents were freezing in the dark in New Jersey for five awful days and nights. They weren’t well enough to be moved, and there was nowhere to move them anyway. My sister and brother tended to them round the clock. My brother finally was able to get a generator, but there was no gas to keep it going. The power finally came back, and, although there was some damage, their homes are still standing. My family made it through. So many people didn’t, and won’t.

A minor miracle
In Manhattan, I was one of the lucky ones – thanks to a huge pile of garbage and the brilliant, quick thinking of my building’s staff.

We live on the west side of First Avenue. The buildings across the street were evacuated, but we were on the border of Zone A, so we got to stay put in our 30-story building.

At the height of the storm, the East River came gushing across the Avenue, bringing four feet of water into my building’s garage. Every car in it was destroyed. Cars were floating. Those big planters that hold trees in the front of buildings were floating up First Avenue. All the car alarms were going off for hours.

Con Ed cut the power, pre-emptively. We were in pitch blackness. What kept the river from rushing another 10 feet into the elevators, the compactor, and the furnace? What kept the river from shorting out all of the building’s electrical wiring? What kept four feet of water from gushing through the street level doors itno the lobby? Garbage!

Our super, with a handful of other members of the staff, barricaded all the doors with piles of garbage that would normally have been collected on Monday. But collection was suspended when the storm roared in, and that garbage saved us from much worse damage.

In the end, it’s miraculous that the garbage did the job! But it did. And everyone here will always be grateful.

I had no idea, in the dark, in my apartment, with the wind and rain raging, of the desperate drama happening on the ground because all I could see from my window was the water coming and the trees swaying wildly.

When we got a robocall saying the power would be shut, I think all of my neighbors did what I did: got into bed, turned on the TV, and tried to go to sleep when the lights went out. When the power went, and there was nowhere to go to get far enough away from the windows, I thought I might just die in my bed that night as the windows blew in. Neighbors told me they thought the same, and one said she slept on the floor until she realized that wouldn’t help and she got back into her bed.

The night passed, and in the morning, when I looked out the window, the water was gone. The Avenue was quiet and clear, and it was as it the night had not really ever happened. Surreal, indeed.

We got power back by Tuesday night. Nobody else I know on the Upper East Side lost power, even those who live adjacent to the river. It was as if the couple of blocks around my building were in an alternate universe: dark, cold, no plumbing. But it was nothing compared to what happened in other parts of the city.

Then, on Sunday morning, one of the well-dressed Upper East Side matrons who was walking her miniature while poodle on Park Avenue, which never felt the wrath of the hurricane, asked me “Did they cancel the marathon?” It was hard not to laugh, or curse at her, but I chose to politely respond “Yeah, a couple of days ago.”

When I told that story to my 87 year-old dad, we had a good laugh. It was the first time I’d heard him laugh in a long time.