I was born and raised in Maryland, and most recently lived in Virginia. I’ve never lived anywhere outside of those two states (before moving to Austria, of course). My family still lives in Maryland, and most of my friends live in Maryland or Virginia. Growing up, my grandmother had a condo on the beach in Ocean City, MD, and I have fond memories from early childhood through this past summer based on the Maryland (and Delaware, and North Carolina) shores.
So, I’d been doing my best to keep up with the information unfolding over the past few days about the “Frankenstorm” and trying to separate actual concerns from excessive hype. As of yesterday evening, everyone I’d kept in touch with was doing fine, but the worst of the storm that had demolished and flooded several of my dearly loved beach destinations hadn’t yet reached them.
I was wondering, this morning, how things were going. I wasn’t hearing back from anyone, but it was still the middle of the night where they were, so I wasn’t too worried — I was hoping that they were all sleeping soundly. The reports from New York and New Jersey sounded awful, but it sounded like the more inland portions of Maryland and Virginia were spared the worst of the storm. In fact, based on the few anecdotal reports I was seeing on Facebook, it looked like the Frankenstorm was another case of an over-hyped disaster scenario.
But, then I saw that the storm was featured on the front page of “Heute”, one of Vienna’s daily newspapers. I haven’t seen a front-page article about something happening in the US *at all* since we’ve been here, let alone an entire front page. As the day went on, it does, indeed, sound like the storm was very much as terrible, forceful and deadly as it was made out to be, it’s just that the people I know personally were fortunate to have avoided most of those parts of it.
I feel very distant from it, over here. It feels like it’s happening far away, to someone else . . . because it is. Which is obvious, but it’s different from how I would have felt a year ago. This doesn’t feel like “my” disaster. I feel grateful that my friends and family are safe. I feel sad that so much damage was done, and I feel anger and frustration that people died (especially those who died unnecessarily). I feel overwhelmed at the amount of work there will be to repair and rebuild in the wake of this storm. I feel awed by the amount of effort that will be put forth by so many people just to make normal life happen around them in the coming days, weeks and months. But, it all feels very far away. And that feels very strange.