03 December 2012

Hurricane Sandy and a K-pop Concert or How Social Media Changed My Life: Part Un

This is the first in a series of posts:
     As a New Jersey resident, the last week of October was definitely more of a trick than a treat.  The Mr. (my husband, that is) and I traveled down to our ancestral Shore towns, the weekend prior to Sandy, to assist our parents in preparation.  Little did we know, the shore from our childhood would cease to exist, days later.  The night the storm arrived on shore, I spoke with my mother, who justifiably believed she was having her last conversation with me.  Apparently, a tree had fallen against her window and she was awash with fear that the worst was yet to come.

      Simultaneously, I was engaged in a conversation with some of my co-workers via iPhone messaging.  The girls at work and I would regularly gossip about daily events and share relationship woes.  On this night, however, the conversation had taken a dark turn towards that of fear for our well being and the safety of our loved ones. As we engaged in conversation, green and yellow lights flashed brightly outside our windows.  We would later discover that this psychedelic light show had a direct correlation with the widespread power outages.
       Prior to the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, my biggest concern for the month of November was attending the concert for one of my favorite Korean pop bands, Big Bang.  Big Bang was touring in the United States with two shows at the Prudential Center in Newark.  I had tickets for the second night and was sharing the concert with a fan whom I had met via a Facebook fan forum.   The Mr. had suggested that I find people with similar interests in Korean pop music, which led me to actively engage in various Korean pop (K-pop) related forums.  I had been enthusiastic about the show, for weeks, ordering my light stick and head band from retailers in South Korea.  There were various fan projects surrounding the show, including simple crafts like the star below  to display allegiance to the band.

Part of a Star for Big Bang Project

       During the dismal days following the storm, my mother and my in-laws faced widespread power, phone, and cellular phone outages.  Even in central and northern New Jersey, centralized locations like Bridgewater Commons Mall resembled refugee camps for the wireless and electrical challenged.  Frazzled teens and businessmen, alike, could been seen squatting with their laptops plugged into any available power outlet.  To someone who had lived in New Jersey and the tri-State area their entire life, it appeared as if the world was coming to an end.

Children playing on storm debris.
      The Mr. and I were fortunate in that our power was restored after only twenty four hours.  When our power returned, half of our apartment complex could be heard cheering.  The other half of the complex would remain without power for four more days.  In the midst of the power and communication black out, I was unable to contact my mother.  My mother lives within a guarded senior citizen complex, where other slightly technologically challenged seniors were trying to figure out why their cellular calls were dropping.  The fact that a cellular tower may have been destroyed by the storm went unnoticed and spoken by them. So, for five days I was not able to verify that my mother had fared okay through the storm.

       By the second day, the Mr. and I were doing quite well.  Our power had been restored, which meant that the adjacent shopping center was functional, as well.  We were able to replenish our groceries, visit the liquor store for some potent potables, and purchase a hot cup of coffee.  This, however, was all done with the knowledge that our family at the Shore was probably not faring quite as well.   I should also add that we live in a town that was decimated in the nineties by a hurricane. The run on joke is that if you live in Bound Brook, you should own an inflatable boat. Our families, unable to gain access to information and without power, feared the worst for us. 
       As the days trudged on, with little word from our family members, we continued to care for our dog and ourselves.  Having a shopping center within close proximity helped. On day three, the Mr. and I ventured out to Bridgewater Commons Mall to lunch with my two of my friends from work.  The normally well-heeled patrons of The Cheesecake Factory looked absolutely bedraggled.  Children were crying hysterically and stay at home trophy wives appeared to be absolutely unhinged.  Within the area of Bridgewater, there were widespread power outages that extended into the tony area that is known as "The Hills".

     By the fourth day, I had started to become more engaged with the online forum I had previously only been an observer of.  Young people from throughout the country were planning to converge on New Jersey for the K-pop concert, which was scheduled on November 8 and November 9.   Language barriers inhibited the concise production of travel advisories and official information from the management of Big Bang.  Conservative Korean families were urging their daughters to remain at home and not to enter the disaster zone, as many were referring to it.  As I read their posts, I scoffed at their concerns.  This was because where I lived was not as hard hit and due to the power outages, we hadn't traveled too far.   New Jersey didn't truly seem to be a disaster area, to someone like myself.
    By the time day five had arrived, the realization that FEMA and the Red Cross were descending upon the disaster zone that was New Jersey, had hit.  In a desperate effort to obtain gasoline for my car, I remained awake twenty four hours, following traffic trends and posts via the social media GPS application known as Waze.  I had still not spoken with my mother and was concerned about my husband returning to work.   I had been out of work since Sandy had hit, with little promise of power being restored to the school and work center.  A lifetime law and order person, I was reduced to yelling at law enforcement officers who were attempting to control social order through monitoring gas lines.  

Part Deux...

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