Sunday, November 4, 2012

Staten Island Strong

New Dorp Beach, 2009
The beach we would so frequently sit on is busy with debris, yet at the very same time, left barren from the immense erosion of sand.

The field we would so frequently run in is now being used as a base for the National Guard, the American Red Cross, FEMA, and countless other relief groups.  The neighborhood blocks we would so frequently walk down have been left impassable by the endless bags of garbage - the content of people's homes, destroyed by the ocean, now left at the curb, sopping wet.  Helicopters fly in the skies overhead, starting as early as 7 AM and continuing in to the dark hours of the evening.  Cars line the roads, but most of them are not moving - some fell prey to the storm, others sit idle in a line for gas that stretches nearly a mile.  The roads are street corners are packed full with volunteers, donated clothing, spectators, residents, and the NYPD.

It's bad here.  It's really, really bad here.

Hurricane Sandy has absolutely ravaged my neighborhood.

Those who doubted this storm, those who thought the media was overhyping this storm, were proven very wrong.  Hurricane Irene, which did far more inland damage than it did coastal damage, lulled many people in our beach community in to a false sense of comfort.

Including my family.

In fact, we figured that since my grandma's house always loses power, that we'd bring her to OUR house, a half mile from the beach and in NYC's "Zone A" rather that pack up and go to her house, which is 60 feet or so above sea level, on a hill.

We were smart about one thing, though, and did have things packed up in case we had to leave at the last minute.

Aaaand.. we DID leave at the last minute.

Social media began to buzz after 7 PM on Monday night with reports of the storm surge starting to reach roads and residences.  I found out that a nearby block was under water through Facebook, and the local online news said that people were being rescued off of rooftops just 5 blocks away.

It didn't feel real until I looked out the window and saw what looked like the end of the world - the sky lighting up from transformers exploding, and a mass exodus of cars away from the streets nearer to the beach and closer to higher ground.  Police sirens blared as loud as the wind was blowing.

The final straw was when the water began pouring up my block.  I saw it between my block and the next out on the main road, and that is when I knew that we had to leave.

So, we very quickly packed up a family of four, an 80 - year old grandma, and a cat and a dog in to my dad's crossover, which he conveniently backed up on to my front lawn to avoid the floodwaters, and he drove us to higher ground.

In retrospect, it was a little stupid for us to leave, since it was entirely possible that we would not be able to get out of my neighborhood, and then would have been trapped in the floodwaters.  But, we made it to my grandma's dry, albeit pitch black, house.  My sister, the pets, and I spent the night in my grandma's spare bedroom, on the floor, listening to the wind howl, sandwiched between several layers of blankets.

Fast forward to Tuesday, when I finally arrived home.  The ocean water somehow skipped over my house and stopped dead on my front lawn. We had some damage in the basement from the sewers backing up and spewing filth all over the basement floor.  Some stuff got ruined, but nothing terribly substantial.  Nothing like the devastation experienced elsewhere in my neighborhood.  We were very lucky.

Since I arrived home after dark on Tuesday, I didn't get out to see my community until Wednesday.  It was like a movie.  Literally everyone I knew from my neighborhood was affected in some way.

There doesn't feel like there's an end in sight right now, though I know things will get better.  Already people here have made tremendous progress clearing out their houses, and Sanitation has been doing their best to get the garbage off of our streets.

I've never been one to be ashamed of the fact that I'm from Staten Island, the way some people are.  I've lived here my entire life, in this little house in New Dorp Beach, so one would hope that I like the place! But this week, I'm truly proud to be a Staten Islander.  The support people are giving to one another is amazing and will, no doubt, help us get through this time a little bit easier.


katie, Maizey and Magnus November 5, 2012 at 12:51 AM  

Thanks for sharing your story. I did relief work in New Orleans after Katrina and what your describing seems very similar to what I saw there. It was a life changing event for me to say they least and I didn't live through it, just cleaned up afterwords. This hurricane has been hard for me to watch on the news because of the devastation I saw in New Orleans. Do you think people really just don't get it if they haven't lived it? I feel people here are so removed and haven't experienced anything like that they don't react the same way I do.

I'm glad your safe and glad Marge and your family is okay too! It's neat your community is bonding together, I saw that in New Orleans too. People would stop and thank us for working and ask us to come back when the, "city was normal again." They had an enormous sense of pride. It was a very neat thing to see.

Fred November 5, 2012 at 9:15 AM  

We didn't realize you guys were on Staten Island! So glad you're OK, and thanks for sharing your story. Thoughts with all of you up there!

andrea November 5, 2012 at 9:25 AM  

I've been worried about you! Thanks for posting.. hope the clean up goes ok for you- wonder if Marge had flashbacks :( oh well - glad she's in such good hands now

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart November 5, 2012 at 10:02 AM  

Every day we feel more gratitude that you and your whole family got through the storm safely and with relatively little damage to your house. I'm so sorry for the devastation in your great community. When I visited, it felt so much like the neighborhood where I grew up. From afar, I can only hope that each day gets you closer to "normal." Hang in there. So proud to see the work you are doing for your neighbors.

Anna the GSD November 5, 2012 at 10:24 AM  

So glad you guys are okay!! And soooo glad you got out and had a safe (dark, but safe) place to go for your whole family! What a blessing that your home is okay! I know it looks like a war zone, but it will be okay, it will rebuild and it will be better. Trust me, we've had our share of massive tornadoes and hurricanes over the years that you'd think "how can something rise out of this?" The land will still bare the scars, but you'll be amazed at what the human spirit can overcome and rebuild! Prayers for you all!!

Sue November 5, 2012 at 11:34 AM  

Sam, we've been following you on Facebook and thinking about you a lot. Is there anything we can do? We New Yorkers have to stick together. Stay strong.
Sue and Rob

Chris and Ricky November 5, 2012 at 11:52 AM  

So glad to read this and to hear that you and your family are ok! I have thought about you often. The damage is incredible. I am glad your house was mostly spared.

Kari in Alaska November 5, 2012 at 4:54 PM  

So glad to hear yall are ok

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