A week before Sandy, I experienced another first - being admitted to the hospital for a severe asthma attack. For 5 days, I lived in a room of blank-white walls, in a bed near a window that wouldn't open, on a floor I couldn't leave. Sleeping was impossible, thanks to the aggressive medicine circling my veins, causing insomnia and unbearable headaches that wouldn't go away. While I missed the freedom and ease of living and breathing, what I surprisingly missed most was fresh air and silence. Having to deal with the sounds of machines constantly beeping, snoring roommates, on top of the debilitating headaches, along with the incessant interruptions from nurses and doctors, who always forgot to close the door, I longed for the day where sound just stopped. Silence is golden, they say. Additionally, the stale air in the hospital was beginning to make me feel more and more imprisoned, surrounded by death and illness. I now truly understood Elie Wiesel's line from his memoir Night when he states, "My life turned into one long night." Time did not matter; in fact, it was non-existent, and I missed the concrete separation between each day where sleep, darkness and silence were a welcomed break. Thankfully, when I took my first steps outside of the hospital building, it gave me a sense of life as the October air hit my skin. Once home and in my own bed, I savored every soundless second and embraced the dark shadows of my own room. However, do I, like many others, usually take these simple experiences for granted, going through life without realizing how significant each and every moment can be, before it's taken away? Coincidentally, I recently ran into one of my principals, who was concerned about my extended absence, and he stated, “We take breathing for granted” - a thought I've actually held for quite some time. So just how many things in our lives seem convenient, effortless, and perennial, but can be taken away in an instant?
Along these same lines, what hit me most after Sandy was a news piece about how children had been affected, and, ironically, they experienced a positive change. With power eliminated from their world, so was technology – the Internet, iPods and phones they cling to for existence were all suddenly dead to them. It was heartwarming to hear that many children were stretching their imagination, spending more time outside and more quality time with their families. One little girl said being with her family was “not so bad” and she enjoyed it! Another discovered an affinity for playing card games and writing. Ultimately, during Sandy, many individuals were connecting and becoming in-tune to themselves, their families, and what life is really about.
Is it a coincidence, then, that Sandy's devastation occurred within a few weeks from Thanksgiving? Maybe we needed a reminder of what is really important in this world. Let's hope we don't forget it.