Watching people on the East Coast return to see what is left of their homes brought back a lot of memories for me. I was able to find the photos I took the first time I went back to our house in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina.
My expectation when I was driving my rental car was that our house was probably gone. All the news footage I had seen up to that point was showing empty lots. For some reason, I needed to make the pilgrimage to see it for myself.
I'm sure the people just hit by Sandy are having the same emotional roller coaster ride that I went through in 2005. My first reaction was glee and amazement. I was shocked that our house was still standing. Immediately I thought that I might be able to salvage many of the possessions inside. My guitar collection, computer, and the Ron & Don Show archive that I had kept for over a decade. I was also hoping that my wife's horse gear made it - her favorite saddle and all the tack she used almost every day.
Then your heart drops as you enter the building. It finally dawned on me, as it will for thousands of people in New Jersey, that this storm was much more powerful than I thought. As I walked through our little house, I came to the conclusion that it would be emotionally easier if I just walked away. So I took a few photos and some CD's from our show, and that was it.
The next few months will be the worst. This story will fade from the front page, but their lives will go on. There will be countless moments of sadness every time you go to get the most mundane item and it's not there. I can't tell you how many times I looked for a shirt or kitchen utensil that I knew should be where it always was only to remember - Oh yea, that's been destroyed.
If there is a silver lining, it's that time does heal. It does get easier. Insurance companies will finally send you a check. You do get to buy a new bed, and shirt, and plates. After a few years, it will become an interesting story to tell at parties. Then another storm will happen, and all the emotions will come flooding back. But the best gift of a big storm like this is that you become grateful - very grateful for what you have. That feeling of gratitude has never left me since my big storm. And things have fallen into place more than I could have hoped for. We're back in the city that we love, doing a show that we love for the best people in the world.
Believe it or not, I'm thankful for my hurricane.