The week of Hurricane Sandy was one full of lessons for us - lessons about life, community and the bottomless inspiration of American entrepreneurship.
It started at 10:30am monday - before the rains had even started - when a huge tree came down across our road and driveway we lost power, phone, internet and cable. (It’s still out 6 days later as I write this but with a Verizon MiFi and an 18kw generator we’re not complaining too much). Like most, we figured we’d laugh our way through the storm posting to FaceBook and generally hoping for the best.
Then came lesson one - The Fragility of Life. About 11pm monday night as we fell asleep we began getting text messages that two boys in our daughter’s middle school had been killed when a tree came down on their house. The joking was over. The lack of power inconsequential. We slept in the basement, hugging our kids as the wind howled and prayed for the other families. As we woke to the devastation around us, there was an overwhelming sense of fragility - both of life - and our connections to the outside world. By that evening cell phone coverage was lost.
In the days that followed came lesson two - The Spirit of Community. We attended the wake of both boys at a nearby funeral home. Our kids had never been through a wake before and they had trouble processing what it all meant as hundreds of family members and friends waited in line in the cold and rain to meet the families and hold them briefly. The grace displayed by the boys’ mothers was indescribable. Many of our daughter’s teachers came by to offer hugs. In the end, we explained that THIS is what it all means - community coming together to support and offer hope.
This morning we had our third lesson - the Inspiration of American Entrepreneurship. At 9am today we joined dozens of others from the community at the home of our friends Mary and Ernie in Croton Falls, NY. In 2010 their wireless phone retail business closed down. Nearly broke, and with 4 young kids to support, they moved into a rented house and began seeking social services. Ernie managed to land a sales job and asked Mary to make some of her homemade granola bars to sustain him at work. The bars were a hit with his co-workers and pretty soon the kitchen had become an assembly line with the entire family helping to bake and package Lola Granola Bars (http://www.lolagranolabar.com). Mary began selling them to local grocery stores and delis. Pretty soon they were getting calls from big chains like Whole Foods.
Today Lola Granola Bars was featured on an episode of The Food Channel - so we all came by to watch the show and celebrate! Soon they will be transferring production of their formula to an all natural facility in Syracuse NY - finally freeing up Mary’s kitchen! - but they plan to expand into offices here in Croton Falls and possibly add as many as 100 jobs to the local community. They thanked the town for its support during their own hard times and opened their own home to everyone for bagels, coffee - and granola bars! As the event wound down, Ernie packed up the truck with 1000+ bars they were donating to the Westchester Food Bank. It was an amazing display of how a little luck, hard work, and hope can take a family from desperation to television in just two years. Lola Granola is an incredible story and is destined to become an incredible brand.
So as I sit here trying to wrap my head around the week’s events I feel incredibly lucky - lucky to have my house and family - and lucky to be part of this incredible community of North Salem and Croton Falls NY. But also incredibly hopeful - and faithful - that no matter what happens we Americans always find a way to make it through, perhaps battered, but stronger than we were before.