Yesterday, the claims adjuster from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (we’ll just call it FEMA) came to the house. He was very nice, and like many of the people who’ve come through my neighborhood in the past few weeks (American Red Cross volunteers, distributors of FEMA information) he hailed from a faraway state.
He walked around our house, surveyed the damage and made notes on a tablet. The visit was strange for a lot of reasons. For one thing, our house is still a mess, but really, everything is back to normal. All the major appliances have already been replaced. All the garbage is gone. The house no longer smells like low tide. It’s stopped being a clean-up and started to be more of a renovation.
When the adjuster came by, I was sitting at the kitchen table, copy-editing and drinking tea.
After his tour of the premises, the adjuster stood in the kitchen and ran through his list of prescribed questions. The last one was this: “Do you feel you will have to relocate while your repairs are made?”
It was strange to be asked that, as I stood in my kitchen with my tea still steaming on the table and my dog sitting at my feet, when so many people are so much worse off than we are. My husband’s family is from Texas. They’re all okay, but they’ve sent us photos of the fires. Thousands of homes have been incinerated. And then there’s Vermont, where whole towns became rivers during Irene. And there are the people near us, whose homes washed into the Sound.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for any help we can get. The saltwater destroyed all the major appliances and most of the belongings we kept downstairs. Still, what we experienced was a hardship, not a disaster. I can’t imagine coming back to our home to find that everything – even the vehicles – has been destroyed. Or coming back to find that my first floor is coated in a chocolate fondant-like layer of river mud, or of discovering that the back half of my home has been sunk out at sea.
We’re lucky. We still have our home and each other and the furry critters. We still have a house for the FEMA adjuster to inspect.