Three days after superstorm Sandy, people wait in line with...

Three days after superstorm Sandy, people wait in line with their gasoline cans in Deer Park. Some were getting gas for generators, others to fill up the tanks in their cars. (Nov. 1, 2012) Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

I'm grateful this Thanksgiving for the way neighbors and strangers helped me after Sandy.

Almost everyone has a story to tell about the superstorm, and what they learned about themselves and others. I found out how it feels to be treated like royalty.

One day not long after the storm, I waited outside at a service station in East Northport for four hours to buy $40 worth of gasoline for a generator. Maybe because I look my age, 84 years (though I don't feel it), the people in front of me and behind me in line were especially solicitous.

A woman offered me a blanket, another put the hood of my jacket over my head, and a third person got me a chair to sit on. Added to all these acts of kindness was still another: The chair was moved into the sun. Thoughtful people moved my two gas cans along so I didn't even have to stand up.

As time passed, I offered the chair to others. One time I stood to see if I could still identify my containers. No worries. Others were watching them for me.

A neighbor came up and said hello. It was nice to see someone I knew. She offered me the help of her sturdy son to carry the now-filled, and very heavy, containers to my car.

There was a policeman on duty at our gas station. When he crossed the street to check on another gas station, a female motorist suddenly darted her automobile into the vehicle line, cutting off other cars. That line seemed to stretch without end.

The crowd began to scream at the woman. A man carrying a cane walked up to her car.

The woman opened the door and got out. She was short, but her physical attributes were substantial, and the language she used could not be printed in a newspaper. She seemed ready to fight.

She shouted in a loud voice, "I am a diabetic! There is no food in the house and I am taking care of three children!" Two children jumped out of the car. They looked scared.

Someone got the policeman and then, as if by magic, the scene changed. This was one of Suffolk County's finest. The screaming stopped, the policeman spoke to her quietly, and the woman climbed back into her car and moved it to the side, out of the gas line. This officer acted with composure and calm. He took what was potentially a dangerous incident and ended it quietly. No one was hurt.

The days without electricity went on. I got a few delicious meals from a neighbor who, it turns out, is a great cook. I did not go hungry, but I did miss the television. I voted on Election Day and went back to reading the newspaper instead of listening to the news on TV.

A couple of weeks after the storm, even with my power back, the events caught up with me. I felt totally worn out. My daughter put her arms around me when I started to cry.

My niece will come from South Carolina for Thanksgiving. The holiday cannot be here already. I feel as if I missed a whole month.

Reader Jane Goldblatt lives in East Northport.

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