Storm Retrospective

Written By: Jean  Cowen

After nine days without electricity and running water, things were rapidly becoming desperate. Hurricane Gloria hit East Hampton in September of 1985, with excessive winds and flooding. Some said it was a Category 3 storm. We were not prepared. My Father-in-Law, who was born in Bonac, said it was nothing compared to the Hurricane of 1938. He told me of the damage on Main Street caused by the water that traveled all the way from Main Beach. Many of the Elms did not survive. I believed him, but that was little comfort to me with a six-month old daughter and a low supply of Pampers.

My neighbor and best friend, who had two boys under three years of age, and I decided that desperate times called for desperate measures. We were young, naive, and luckily, not bad looking. One of the few items still available for purchase at the local market was beer. We used a few of the gallons of gas left in my car to drive to buy the beer. It raised a few eyebrows: Mothers buying beer instead of milk for their youngsters? We stayed mum. Once we had it, we went in search of a repair crew. We hoped for the best!

Using our feminine wiles, and the promise of a 24 pack, we were able to persuade a crew to follow us home. They were from out of state and eager to be home themselves.They sympathized with our situation. Within minutes, the downed wire was repaired, the thirsty crew gone, and the power restored. Success! We reveled in our glory!

Ironically, nearly thirty years later, in retrospect, what I remember of those nine days was the amazing camaraderie of my fellow Bonackers. I do not remember that we had to do without. I remember how everyone pitched in for the common good. If someone had gas in their car, they would gladly give rides to those that didn’t. If someone else had a generator (which was rare), they’d store their neighbor’s food. If someone had medical expertise, they would be available as needed. The police were very responsive, but they could only do so much. No one had cell phones, and most of us had no phone service at all, so word of mouth was essential. We would gather outside our homes in the evening to share our stories. We divided supplies, drank wine together and cooked over grills and bonfires. We relied on each other. It wasn’t so bad…In fact, it was wonderful.

During Hurricane Sandy, I reminisced about Hurricane Gloria, her older sister. I missed those days when neighbors depended upon one another in times of trouble. I was reminded of a simpler time, not easier, but certainly less complicated. Children could still ride their bikes without the overshadowing fear of abduction. Teachers could still reprimand students for misbehavior without threat of a lawsuit. Online dangers did not exist. Global warming was not even a catch phrase. The specter of nuclear proliferation was still far removed from our every day lives. We, here on the East End, enjoyed each sunrise and sunset in the most glorious setting on the planet. Mother Nature blessed us, and occasionally chided us, and we accepted it. We knew just how fortunate we were to live here!

The hands of time do not turn back for anyone. Given the chance, however, I would gladly return to those nine days of Hurricane Gloria without power again. I would revel in all that we once had without knowing it. I would cherish that simplicity of existence that we took for granted. Innocence is bliss. How I long for the Bonac of yore!