The Best Macaroni and Cheese I Ever Ate – Superstorm Sandy Relief

With the back of our pick-up truck filled with over 25 gallons of gas, 20 gallons of water, a generator, a water pump, and

Flooded street out front of my Uncle's home

Flooded street out front of my Uncle’s home

food supplies, a few of us headed to New Jersey to aid in the cleanup in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. My 90-year old Nana and my 60-something Godfather both have homes that were right in the path of Sandy. My Godfathers 1st floor den/basement had completely filled with water, right up to the six foot high ceiling where the water took down the tiles. The water came into the basement with such force that it moved a full size pool table from one side of the den to the other. It was a photographers nightmare…which is just what he is, a photographer. All of his albums, equipment, and memories lost in murky water and sewer backup.

People standing in line for gas

People standing in line for gas

Driving into New Jersey there were lines of cars backed up miles from gas stations. We heard over the radio that people were waiting up to four hours to get gas.

We arrived at 10am and began pumping the water out of his basement at 10:30am. We

View from the main stairs down into the den/basement

View from the main stairs down into the den/basement

stopped pumping at 7pm and still had a few feet left to go. We decided to stop where we were and pump out Nana’s basement as it was much smaller. We managed to get it down to a few inches of water by 10pm that evening. We were all exhausted, cold, sore, and hungry. With

This is after the water has dropped a few feet...you can see the ceiling tiles floating in the water

This is after the water has dropped a few feet…you can see the ceiling tiles floating in the water

only a gas burner, I cooked us all macaroni and cheese and boiled some hot dogs. My 90-year-old Nana told me that it was the best macaroni and cheese she had ever eaten. Never one to eat much, she finished her entire

Fishing out some of my Uncle's negatives and photos as we pump out the water

Fishing out some of my Uncle’s negatives and photos as we pump out the water

hot dog and had second helpings of the macaroni and cheese. She even ate a few potato chips and drank some hot tea. Nana said she couldn’t remember the last time she had a hot dog as she never liked the taste of them. We all agreed that for some reason – the cold, the lack of heat, the fact that we were all so tired, or perhaps that the milk had spoiled so that the macaroni and cheese was made with reserved pasta water and half a stick of butter – it was the best meal of macaroni and cheese with hot dogs we ever had. As we all sat around the dining room table with flashlights and wearing hats and gloves, we all laughed at the fact that the situation reminded us of camping. We all agreed that we hated camping. 

We slept in sleeping bags spread out on the living room floor wearing jackets and hats. We awoke at 7am and began

This is where the pool table was - the force of the water moved it and several cupboards of stuff into the corner

This is where the pool table was – the force of the water moved it and several cupboards of stuff into the corner

pumping out my uncle’s basement again.

The power has been out for six days already and they have been told that they hope to have power on before the

Cleaning out my Nana's basement after we pumped it out.

Cleaning out my Nana’s basement after we pumped it out.

possible Nor’easter coming this Wednesday. My Uncles house is so damaged that we figure he won’t have power, heat, or water for up to 3 weeks. Luckily Nana has running water (cold), and hopes to have electricity in the next three to five days. Her furnace is destroyed though, so she will have to buy electric heaters while her name slowly creeps along on the waiting list for the replacement and repair men.

We left them with the generator, gas and water, planning to return later this week with more food and batteries for flashlights. For now, they are safe which is what really matters. The relief efforts are beginning as they told us that the National Guard came around with ice and water. Neighbors who didn’t so much as say hello to each other before are now checking on

Just a few of the bags of food, clothes, and memories we cleaned out of the basement

Just a few of the bags of food, clothes, and memories we cleaned out of the basement

everyone to make sure people are alright. We got word that some man from Illinois came up and handed out free food. Two local firemen donated their time and money and flipped over 300 burgers and handed out hot food to people in need. The local school is giving out necessities like toothpaste, deodorant, and cleaning supplies. Gas is still in high demand for those able to commute to work, and for those who have generators. The panic has subsided, but the everyday tasks still loom large without the conveniences we take for granted. The clean-up that lies ahead for not only my own family but for so many others is devastating. I

Only some of the things we cleaned out of my Uncle's den

Only some of the things we cleaned out of my Uncle’s den

only hope that people will continue to rally together to make things happen.

For now, those of us not cleaning up the debris, we can only watch the news seeing the clips of houses no longer standing, and hear the reports of those dead or missing. For some, we are lucky enough to have family safe and are able to take the time to help. My heart goes out to those in more dire situations, but I am selfish in my thoughts that at least my family is safe and that we will be together again soon with more help on the way.

My Nana asks that I send more hot dogs.

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