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Kathy Burger
Kathy Burger
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Sandy's Aftermath: Dispatches from Hoboken, New Jersey

Sandy's Aftermath: ispatches from Hoboken, New Jersey; reflections on community, loss, and the possible role of the insurance and banking industries.

The Morning After

Awoke on Tuesday to still-stormy weather and a realization that this was going to be more than a few hours of inconvenience. No cell access, but fortunately we did have running water. Thank goodness for all the portable speakers I've received as favors and premiums at various industry events and conferences in recent years -- we dug out a small battery-powered radio and were able to connect to the local NPR station, WNYC, which continues to be a lifeline. We grabbed some provisions from the refrigerator and freezer and hunkered down for the day. Figured out we could get very spotty cell service in the hallway outside our unit, tried to get word (mostly by text) to family and friends that we were OK. How much we take for granted! With no lights in the hallway or stairwells, we weren't going anywhere, even with a flashlight. Dinner by candlelight!

Wednesday, Oct. 31, started with what I hoped was a good omen -- our Tuesday and Wednesday New York Times and Wall Street Journals were there at our front door! I'm never giving up on print media after this experience! The lights were on in our hallway and one elevator was running (we knew by generator), so after my cold-water shampoo and sponge down (don't ask) I ventured outside. I live two blocks from the Hudson River and at first things didn't look so bad. Then I saw the first uprooted tree. So much debris … then the eerie sight of the abandoned and blocked off space outside the PATH train station (my usual means of transportation to NYC is out of commission indefinitely). Then up to Washington Street, Hoboken's main drag -- the shocking sight of National Guard trucks and troops, Red Cross vans and non-functional stop lights in the middle of town. Even more distressing were the reports of thousands of residents having to be evacuated by the National Guard because of flooding.

In the meantime, our building management had set up a charging station in the garage, so between recharging our phones and getting the newspapers I was beginning to feel less isolated. Plus, we were becoming great friends with neighbors we'd barely said "Hello" to previously. And the information supply chain had begun: "The newsstand on 5th Street is selling coffee," "Free batteries at 3rd and Washington," "Food at the church on Hudson Street." And so I became one of the people who stands in line to get the free batteries -- because I NEEDED them.

By Thursday there was a bit of a routine. Don't get out of bed until it's light outside. Grab the newspapers. Slug down some cold coffee. Get downstairs and charge the phones. Try to send some texts and possibly call someone -- try to find out how friends and family in Manhattan, Queens and Long Island were doing. And then walk the streets of Hoboken -- partly to see how different neighborhoods were doing, and also to source supplies and food (the salvageable provisions from fridge/freezer were dwindling). Hoboken is a huge restaurant and bar town, and some establishments were starting to open, using generators and coal- or wood-burning ovens to turn out pizza, sandwiches, coffee and other things that taste amazingly good when you've only had soon-to-spoil cottage cheese for lunch.

Time was starting to blur. We'd eat dinner about 5 so I could put things together while there still was a bit of daylight, I'd clean up and then sit, in candlelight, listening to the radio and dozing off, actually wondering about survival. The reports about Sandy's devastation were making me crazy but I couldn't turn off the radio. Didn't want to go to bed too early, as I wanted to sleep as late as possible, but it was hard to make it past 9 pm.

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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