When We Lose Our Power

Several years ago, there was an ice storm in Columbus, Ohio.  The storm itself was horrible …but what was worse was the loss of power.

It was so cold that even now I shudder, thinking about it. I wanted to stay in my house, though. I thought I’d be able to make it work. I had a fireplace…and thought it would help.

It didn’t, not nearly enough. My son, daughter and myself huddled in my king-sized bed,  dressed in layers and with hats, coats and gloves on …but it just kept getting colder and colder.  Finally, I knew we couldn’t stay there. I couldn’t afford to get us into a hotel, which many people were doing. Thank goodness I had a friend who took us …and our two cats …into their home over the Christmas holidays. My two Huskies I left in the house, and went to the house repeatedly to make sure the fireplace stayed active.

I was grateful for my friends, but I hated not having power in my house. Every day I would drive to my neighborhood as dusk settled…to see if there were signs of power, and every day – for seven days, to be exact, I would leave my neighborhood, after tending to my dogs, crying. It was depressing. When my power was restored, my whole attitude changed.

I keep thinking of my own experience as I think of the people on the Eastern seaboard who do not have power. It is getting cold. Some people are staying in houses that are uninhabitable, because they have nowhere to go. The mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, estimates that 70-80,000 people may need housing, and there really aren’t enough places to put people who have been displaced by the storm.

I can feel the depression of the people who not only are looking at stark destruction before them, and who do not have the comfort of having their power. It is getting colder, and blankets are not enough to keep people warm. I can literally feel their depression.

Whenever there is a horrible weather  tragedy, there are mental health issues that we really do not think about, but one thing that exacerbates mental strain is not having power. We take it so much for granted, having power. When we have no power, we have no light, no warmth and we feel like we have no hope.  It makes us susceptible of plunging into deep, deep depression.

I wonder how the people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic and Cuba are faring, post-Sandy? It doesn’t matter your race or ethnicity; a storm wreaks havoc on people equally. Some get more attention in the aftermath, but the mental scarring is universal, not discriminatory.

We take having power for granted. Since my ice storm experience, I find myself literally thanking God every day that I have power. I think of people who do not have power because they cannot afford to pay their bills. How do they do it, mentally?  How does that affect the way they live and interact?

As horrible as the destruction is in Staten Island and on the Jersey shore, I am sure that people will feel better once their power is restored. My niece, who lives in New York, lost her power, and once it was restored, wrote, “I turned on every light in the house, just because I could.” I understand. I am thanking God for my power this morning, because it’s cold outside, and my power enables me and my family to stay warm and to have light to see.

People who were hit by Hurricane Sandy have a lot to deal with, with boats sitting atop houses, cars on top of each other, houses completely destroyed and lying on the ground like discarded toys.

But I would bet that they would be able to handle that better if they just had their power.

Funny, the things we take for granted, the things we do not miss or realize how important they are to our very psyches…until they are gone.

A candid observation …