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Photo: Anida Pelinkovic via Twitter
Hurricane Sandy damage in the New York City borough of Queens
And so this thing has unnerved me, even scared me, beyond expectation. Sure, I've watched footage of the National Guard patrolling the storm-ravaged streets before, I've seen rescues, recoveries, feeding stations, shelters, and people with hollow eyes walking numb. But all that was on TV, not here, not at home.

During World War I, more than a million men in the American Expeditionary Forces embarked from the Hoboken docks for the trenches of Europe, chanting General Pershing's slogan, "Heaven, Hell or Hoboken." The idea was that as the doughboys left the soil of Europe, however they might depart it, they'd be either going to their final reward or returning here and then onward to home. They certainly couldn't have known, and my neighbors and I would never have guessed, that separated in time and struck by the balled fist of nature, those three very different places could be the same place.

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Photo: Getty Images
Residents charge their mobile devices at a station set up by Lucy Walkowiak, 11, who is asking for donations to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy, October 31, 2012, in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Lying in bed the night after the storm, while I tried to find a way to fall asleep, my wife sensed my anxiousness. Like all of you who read TOH, I thought I had made a sanctuary for my family, this place, built on hope and sweat and not just a little money, that was meant to be always safe. That's the common goal, for we TOHers, isn't it? That's why we read this magazine and watch the TV shows and use the website—to help us make a home for our families. But as my wife turned to me, I told her I felt not just off-balance but helpless in the face of the power of the storm, as if I had failed us. I just want to have a place where you guys can be safe, I said to her. And my wife responded, where can you go that you're always safe?

I want there to be an answer to her question—a point on the map, a town name, a little somewhere with a solid fence and a sturdy foundation and a snug, sheltering roof. But I know the answer is "nowhere." You can be cautious, you can take care to be safe, but there is nowhere that you can always be safe.

And so you do what you can. You prepare, as I hope all of you have, for whatever dangers you might one day face. And you act your best in the aftermath. On the first night, with our electricity hanging on, we gave people the supplies we didn't need—batteries and matches and candles. The next morning we ran extension cords out the front door to a table where people could recharge cell phones and laptops. Others who kept power did the same and offered coffee and breakfast, too. And now, when I finish this note, I'll do what I imagine so many TOH readers would do in a similar situation: I'll go downtown and stand in line to volunteer. There are a lot of people in need, just as nervous, just as scared as I am. There always are, and because there are, the best that we can do is put out a hand. You never know when you'll need one in return.
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