One year ago today I was struggling against the masses at the Target in Brooklyn, kicking myself for not realizing that all of the flashlights and bottled water would already be gone and opting instead for board games, candles and junk food. It was a race against the clock, quite literally, as the New York City subway system was less than an hour from being shut down for the second time in its history. If you’ve never lived in New York City, than let me tell you, having the subway system shut down is tantamount to the simultaneous shutdown of every gas station on the Eastern Shore – its sheer inconvenience coupled with downright chaos. While it may appear as if I am describing the pilot episode of The Walking Dead or the preface to World War Z, I am in actuality referring to Hurricane Sandy, the “super storm” that rocked the East Coast just one year ago.

As an Ocean City native who spent a brief period of my childhood living in Florida, I am well-versed in the art of hurricane preparedness. Believe me, I have not failed to see the irony in the fact that during two of my three years in NYC, two freak hurricanes hit the city. Perhaps I missed my calling as a storm chaser? But I digress…as an Ocean City native, watching a Category 3 hurricane barreling towards the East Coast, hell bent on mass destruction, my first thoughts went to my hometown of Ocean City. Anyone who grew up at the beach knows the old saying, “it’s not a matter of if, it’s when.” When you live at or below sea level, it is only a matter of time before Mother Nature strikes. This time last year, I found myself thinking, “our ‘when’ has arrived.” Worries of the beach, the boardwalk, the homes of my friends and family and the local businesses were at the forefront of my mind. Oddly, I was giving very little thought to the fact that the East Coast’s major city was shutting down before my very eyes. Subways and buses, limited taxi service, even the restaurant I was working at closed (and trust me, that is a feat greater than a natural disaster). It wasn’t until I was in the heart of the storm, holed up in my tiny Brooklyn apartment watching the storm unfold before my very eyes on television and outside my window that I realized that I was in the danger zone. Not only was my beloved hometown on the verge of being swept out to sea, but my current place of residence was as well. Trying to grapple with the fact that the two places in the world that you call home were being targeted by the same super storm makes for a long and uneasy night.

Social media and 24-hour news coverage provides little solace in times of mayhem. I was fortunate enough to never lose power; however, watching the generator in Lower Manhattan explode on live TV and shuttering the lights in the entire lower half of the island was unnerving. Hearing live newscasts of a woman’s child being ripped out of her arms and swept away by rushing flood waters – a mere five miles from my apartment – was harrowing. Checking in on friends in Ocean City to hear that the pier had been swept away, that the storm surge was continuously rising, or that entire homes in Crisfield had been wiped out only heightened my awareness of the severity of the situation.

The next morning I awoke to a changed city. Prospect Park – the 500-acre Brooklyn Park that I lived on – was completely closed due to the number of downed trees and destruction. The nearby Rockaways and Breezy Point (which in a cruel twist of fate was home to many of the same fire fighters from 9/11) was left completely devastated. A fire in the middle of the hurricane had ripped through Breezy Point, leaving little but burnt rubble in its wake. The Jersey shore? Flooded, beaten and battered. Long Island and Staten Island? Ditto. As for Manhattan, the subway system would be out of commission for several days, with large sections left out of order for months due to epic flooding. Lower Manhattan looked post-apocalyptic without electricity. The mass exodus of New Yorkers each day to the northern part of Manhattan to seek heat, cell phone service and electricity for a few hours was truly a sight to be seen. Watching first hand as Mother Nature takes a major metropolitan area to its knees is truly humbling.

The Eastern Shore of Maryland was lucky for the most part – key words being ‘for the most part’. There was certainly devastation here – the pier, flooding, beach erosion, damage to homes and businesses – but nothing quite like what the families of Breezy Point, Long Island or New Jersey endured. One year later, there are hundreds if not thousands that have yet to return to their homes. And the economic effect on thousands of families and small business owners is immeasurable. Our local town of Crisfield suffered similar effects, with many losing their homes, and even worse, being faced with having to fight tooth and nail for assistance from FEMA. Ocean City was lucky, and for that we should always be grateful, for as we know all too well, “it’s not a matter of if, but when.”

Take a moment today to not only remember all that was lost from Hurricane Sandy, but also all that was lost from previous hurricanes as well. Remember the sense of community that comes in the wake of destruction, and take that with you each and every day into your own lives. Pay it forward.

**Note: These are merely my own thoughts and experiences – as always, feel free to share your own with us here at ShoreBread**