When we were in Chincoteague at the beginning of October, we spent almost more time out on the water than on land. We kayaked through the salt marsh, watched a sole wild pony grazing on the shore from the back of a boat, and sunk our feet into the black mud as we look for clams. Water is everywhere around, reflecting light, inviting abundant wildlife, and lending the place a remote romance.
The Museum of Chincoteague Island, which tells the natural and human history of the place, is full of stories about water as well. Tales of shipwrecks and oystermen fill the small space. There’s also an exhibit dedicated to the Ash Wednesday storm of 1962 – a nor’easter that ravaged the Mid-Atlantic over several days (the storm hung around for five high tides). Pictures of Chincoteague after that storm show houses with only their top stories peeking out of the gray water.
Happily, reports out of Chincoteague in the aftermath of Sandy are good – the causeway was breached, many trees came down, and the island did flood, but no one who remained was seriously hurt and with lots of hard work residents have been able to clean up enough to declare themselves largely open for business. The wild ponies that live on the barrier island of Assateague came through just fine, although the beach there is going to need some work before next summer’s influx of visitors.
I live in Delaware, which was expected to take the brunt of Sandy. But we were spared that misery as it unleashed most of its fury on New Jersey and southern New York instead. So for the second time in just over a year, I sat in a house that never lost power and watched while places I have visited and loved were ravaged. As with Hurricane Irene, I knew many people and places that were devastated by the storm. And although the Jersey Shore is not a locale I’ve spent much time since high school and I’ve never been to Rockaway or the beaches of Long Island, my heart hurts for the people who love it as I love Vermont, who expected to bring their children to special beaches or homes summer after summer – only to watch in horror as those beaches and homes were swept away.
And I admired the good humor of some of my fellow bloggers and writers, some of whom were without power or heat in their homes for over a week. The intrepid Wendy Perrin headed (with a delegation of her neighbors) for a few days of warmth and comfort at the Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconoes. Carol Cain of Girl Gone Travel snuggled up in front of the fireplace with her children and posted reminders on Facebook both of the challenge of living without basic services and her gratitude that all she and her family lost was power.
I find myself feeling a three-fold sense of responsibility in the wake of this storm. There of course is the immediate and ongoing need to help the people most affected by it. There are many people still suffering – and as is unfortunately typical in these situations, they are generally people who were most vulnerable even before the storm because of poverty or age. I chose to respond to this by donating to the Red Cross, while my boys pooled their allowance money to send a carton of diapers to local relief efforts in Rockaway, Queens.
And of course, I’m a travel blogger. So a logical next thought is that when things are cleaned up, we need to pay a visit and support the area by spending money at local businesses. I was not the only person to think this way: Traci Suppa of Go Big or Go Home published a link up post in which she invited other bloggers to share their stories of visiting New York State, pointing out, rightly that most of the state was not impacted by the storm and is more than worth a visit.
And finally, the storm has me thinking about global warming. With all the traveling that I do with my family, my carbon footprint is definitely not as small as it should be. One of my early traveling resolutions for 2013 is to figure out a way to reduce it; as I research and plan, I’ll be sharing what I learn here.
I want my children to bring their children to see the rivers of Vermont, the waters of Chincoteague, the museums at Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. What good is sharing the world with them if I don’t also work to help and protect it?
If you would like to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy, FEMA has set up a page with information about where you can go to donate or volunteer.
Got stories of the storm? Ways that people can help? Please share them in the comments below.