NO PLACE LIKE HOME | THE DISASTER DIARY: ENTRY 4
By Led Black
Imagine for a moment, if you will, being stranded in the middle of a rainforest in the dead of night, armed only with your natural abilities, instincts, intelligence and a dull machete. As you struggle in vain through the endless vines, there are times when you reach a temporary respite; it is illusory at best because you mistake the lull as permanent. Then you realize that the place you have reached it is just a clearing and there is plenty more jungle to cut through. So you plow ahead because in reality there is no other choice. At some point, the feeling that you are making considerable headway starts to take hold. You start to believe that you will indeed emerge from this quagmire injured but ultimately victorious and intact. It is those positive thoughts that propel one forward, that keep you swinging away when your strength has long ago waned. The natural inclination is to perceive small victories as more significant than they really are. It might be a matter of self-preservation but the mind tricks one into seeing what is not there. At this juncture you once again make the error of thinking that you are farther along that you really are. The terrain begins to get steeper, the labor more arduous – it must be because you are about to reach the haven you have been searching for. What happens next is devastating but predictable. That mind-shattering realization that you are just as lost as when you began this awful nightmare, that even though you have been able to reach a higher vantage point, it only reinforces the fact that you are utterly and completely lost, alone and adrift. Not only that, for the first time the concept of time sneaks up from behind to punch you in your face. It has been almost a month since this ordeal began and you have been plugging away without little regard to rest, sleep or simply peace of mind. Then you look down, only to see that you are standing in quicksand and sinking fast.
That’s what my life has been like since this tribulation has begun. Being without your home is bad in itself but add to that, the reams and reams of red tape that one must deal with on a daily basis is enough to make you lose it. I am a full-time employee and a full-time parent but this situation has become full-time as well. I have not stopped calling, cajoling and warning any one that might listen. I have reached out to the town politicians and the more influential state officials and while some have been more helpful than others, the fact remains that we are still not able to live in our house and the work to begin to repair the wall has not even started.
These are the facts as they stand right now. On May 22nd it will be exactly 4 weeks since we have been able to live at home. The Red Cross has been a lifesaver; their assistance has been effective, immediate and virtually red tape free, dealing with FEMA on the other hand has been like to trying to navigate a maze blindfolded and in a straightjacket. The retaining wall that sits atop of the slope behind my house still has not fallen but looks worse everyday. The retaining wall in question belongs to the homeowner that lives above my property. He has been issued an order to make repairs but he can legally stall for months. The town of Lodi, the state of New Jersey and the Federal government represented in this case by FEMA don’t want to commit to fixing the problem because it is in their best interest to see it as a problem between residents. Not to mention, that our homeowner’s insurance has now officially denied our claim. What happens tomorrow is far from certain, this story is still being written.