Normally, I'm not a huge fan of New Year's Eve. There's always so much build-up and anticipation and yet the night ever turns out exactly the way you want it to. But this time around, I feel differently. After a very hectic past few months, this year's celebration will be really important to me and my family.

Let me explain why.

We live in Long Beach, New York, one of the towns worst affected by Sandy. The bottom floor of our house was destroyed, taking out our living room, kitchen, dining area, and destroying tons of photo albums (holding many of my and my sister's baby photos) and priceless memories. It was hearbreaking, but we were actually very lucky.

Neighbors around the block from us had their homes burned to the ground. Cars were damaged beyond repair, streets were flooded and the town in general was left in a state of total devastation. Driving around a couple days after the storm (I had evacuated early the day of), I cried seeing the boardwalk I grew up on literally cracked in half, with pieces of it strewn all over the city. The whole place resembled a warzone and having never personally experienced such destruction, I was honestly left stunned to the point of speechlessness.

Read more ¿Qué más?: Hurricane Sandy: I had to evacuate because of the Frankenstorm!

Thankfully, all of my family and friends were safe. And though we were all heartbroken, just days after Sandy blew through the town, something amazing happened: the entire community joined together. Left without power and no running water, residents--most of whom had suffered their own damage--found it in their hearts to start pitching in, volunteering, donating, and fundraising. We are a tight-knit town to begin with and everyone pretty much knows each other, but in my entire 23 years of living there, I have never seen the community band together so incredibly.   

My family and I had to rent a temporary apartment nearby. We contributed what and when we could while working on our house. Though it has been a frustratingly slow progress--much slower than we ever thought initially--there has been progress nonetheless. Things got dried out, thrown out, replaced, torn down, put up, examined, and on and on. I'm not going to lie and say it's been easy because at times, it has been anything but. Still, I think I can honestly say I've learned more in the past few months than I have in a long time…and that's that we really don't ever know what life will throw our way, that sometimes we just have to breathe deeply and take things in stride, and above all, that having my family and friends around me is more important than anything else.

So going into 2013, I am not only taking these lessons with me, but I'm also raising a glass to whatever the future may hold. Though rebuilding has been emotionally, physically and financially taxing on my town, my family, and I, I look forward to finishing the process…and to all of us coming out of it stronger than ever.  

Image via Getty Images

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About the author

Michelle Regalado is a Staff Writer at MamásLatinas. She loves reading, travel, pop culture, and writing about anything and everything.

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