Hurricane Sandy threatened to wash away our home but she never washed away my spirit. Despite the fear and upheaval we endured, my faith and hope have intensified. I know things will only get better and that everything happens for a reason. I feel more grateful than I have ever felt before. This hurricane was an eye opener for me; I’ve always been a grateful person, but when you almost lose everything in a matter of minutes, you really take stock in what you have. Material things can be replaced a little at a time, but your life can’t be.

If anything positive came out of Sandy, it’s the way communities have come together to help in the recovery process. Mine is one of them. When someone in the community hurts, we all hurt. And that’s why we all step in and help one another. From the Rockaways to Staten Island to all the other boroughs that were hit, we’re pulling together, helping rebuild, and seeking to return to some sense of normalcy. It will be easier for some than others.

And it’s not just people in affected communities who are pitching in. Residents from the Upper West Side, where damage was slight, have come out to help with cleanup. Electrical workers from as far as San Francisco flew in to help restore power. Young Wall Street executives ditched their suits and ties for rubber boots and work gloves, and set about cleaning up debris. Even on social media, people came together to distribute and find information to help the stricken communities.

Hurricane Sandy was an event that will haunt me forever. I barely made it out of my home, but my motherly instinct told me it was time to go. I fled with my children in my arms, as our house was flooding. Our safety was most important; everything else could be replaced. We left behind a lifetime of memories in a home we love, and those memories could not be replaced. But who was I kidding? The words of my son replay in my mind; as we sat in our hotel room waiting to know the fate of our home—whether we still had a home—he kept saying, “Nothing matters as long as we have one another.” And he was so right.

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So as much as I try to always count every blessing, I would be telling a big fat lie if I told you that I was not worried, that I wasn’t scared that we’d lose everything, and come home to a pile of ashes where our house once stood. But our story had a happier ending than so many others. Our home was spared, but too many people did lose everything—homes, possessions, automobiles. As we enjoyed Thanksgiving in our damaged, but not broken, home, I couldn’t help but wonder and worry for all those people who were left homeless after Sandy: Where would they spend their holiday? With whom would they break bread? And would they find a way to be thankful in the face of all they’d lost?

This holiday season, I am fortunate to sit in a house that we call our home. A home where we appreciate, love, and are grateful for one another, every day. This year it will be extra special and I will be extra grateful for having this home one more year, and for sharing these holiday meals with my family. All of those who were less fortunate will be in my thoughts.

At times like these, we realize that we go through our day-to-day lives without giving much thought to the simple, yet bountiful things we have. Let us all take this holiday season to remember that while our time is consumed with so many other thoughts and activities, we must be grateful for all that we have today, because tomorrow is never promised.