“It looked like a movie outside because it was pitch black everywhere so the streets were barely recognizable, and there were just cops going around with their lights and a few floodlights. It looked like an apocalypse-type scenario, like an abandoned city. It was really messed up, really unnerving.”
Kegan Zema, a former Maine Campus Style editor who now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., experienced firsthand Hurricane Sandy, the tropical storm that left many East Coast cities and towns in shambles.
Zema was visiting his home in Maine when he first heard about the storm, but when he went back to New York last weekend, he didn’t think much of it.
“I don’t have cable or anything like that, so I really could only hear stuff from people and websites or whatever,” Zema said, “but my mom was texting me like, ‘Yo, this storm’s going to be pretty f—ed up, so be safe,’ that kind of thing.
“At first, I thought it was going to hit that night, so I tried to just sleep through it […] and when I woke up at 11 or somewhere around there, it hadn’t even close to hit. It didn’t really even get going until that night.”
Zema said his home in Bushwick, a neighborhood in the northern part of Brooklyn, was largely unaffected by Sandy.
“Our Internet flickered a couple times when we were sitting around watching movies because nobody had work or anything,” Zema said. “We just had no idea how bad it was.
“It wasn’t until the next day that I found out, you know, parts of [New] Jersey just got real f—ed up and that half of Manhattan didn’t have power.”
Despite the chaos, Zema still had to go to work on Tuesday, where he “basically [runs] this ice cream store, this vegan ice cream store situation.
“My manager came and picked me up, and […] it looked like how streets look after a big storm. There was some trees down and stuff, but there wasn’t really any traffic,” Zema said. “The trains were still down, so people didn’t have anywhere to go again on Tuesday, so it was pretty rare.”
Once he got into the city, Zema started to realize the impact the storm really had.
“It didn’t really hit me what the situation was until I had been driving and all of a sudden, we got over the bridge and there were no traffic lights and there were just people wandering around,” Zema said. “It was really crazy, just seeing that. It was weird.
“Then I got up to where I work, on the Upper East Side, and it was like nothing had changed. It was basically, throughout the whole storm, the parts that were affected were just really affected and the parts that weren’t just weren’t at all, kind of.”
Zema said one of the worst parts of the storm for many New Yorkers was the halt of the subway system and the problems with the roads.
“Because there was no transportation, people really didn’t know how bad it was in other parts,” Zema said.
According to Zema, people started getting back into their regular routines soon after the storm, which led to a lot of traffic that made it difficult to get anywhere.
“I got picked up in downtown Brooklyn, and I still had to take a bus there, and it took us like 3 hours to get in, it was crazy,” Zema said. “We were in gridlock traffic for pretty much [the] entire [ride through] Manhattan.
“It was a nuts situation for sure, and a lot of awkward hours in the car with my boss just sitting in traffic, so that was kind of hilarious,” Zema said. “He was really stressing out all the time because on top of all of that, he was trying to get his kids to have a Halloween and he had to work, he had to do his job.”
After work that night, Zema saw for himself how badly Sandy hit Manhattan, as most of the city was without power. The next day, Zema hoped to avoid some of the traffic by riding his bike to work, but on his way home, he travelled in “complete darkness,” with “cheap, little s—– bike lights” as his main source of light, which he described as his “best experience being down there.”
“There were just traffic cops at pretty much every single block, waving people on, just having to be traffic lights, essentially,” Zema said.
“I had to ride my bike over the bridge and it didn’t have light for half of it, and when I got to the top where the lights started coming on again, I turned around and looked back and it was like … you see a blackness and then also the other half of the island.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this is so weird, so creepy.’”
Even though not all areas were affected equally by the storm, Zema said that “everybody was affected in some way, even if it just meant that they stayed at home for like four days and were just really bored by the end of it.”
Although much of New York is still trying to recover from the effects of Sandy, Zema said the situation has gone from not being able to navigate in the city at all to being able to get where you need to in about twice the normal amount of time. He also said that the power is back on in Manhattan and a lot of things are back to normal.
“I rode my bike again today [Saturday] and everything was back to normal, besides the fact that the trains are still f—ed,” Zema said.
“It was pretty much a s— show for a couple days.”