Most of the contents of the downstairs -- beds, mattresses, dressers, furniture, appliances -- were ruined. The smell was bad but bearable. Interestingly, the fridge had been knocked over by the force of the water, which gives you an idea of the power of rising water. We spent our allotted time ripping out carpets and padding that were soaked with gallons of seawater. We could stay only until 3 p.m., so there was no time to cut out drywall, which will be the next step. Later, there will be much to clean, rebuild, and replace. The local merchants and contractors will be very busy in the coming months; I hope the business will help them to rebuild what they've lost, but it's not the type of "stimulus" package you'd ever hope for. Despite the mess, we were lucky. Many lost their homes and all their possessions, and now have to find somewhere else to live. Our little island will recover. So will Ocean City, Staten Island, and the many other places that bore the brunt of Hurricane Sandy. It will take time. This was another great reminder of just how fragile life really is. We go about our daily lives, getting used to "normal," whatever that is. Then the unexpected happens, and there is no "normal," at least for a while.