Hurricane Sandy has impacted us in one way or another. Since her arrival on October 29th, the damage left behind has been unbearable. For many, it’s surreal. No one expected that this powerful storm would leave neighborhoods in ruins. Sandy has claimed lives, 43 of them in New York City alone (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/11/northeast-cleans-up-from-hurricane-sandy-death-toll-nyc-_n_2115375.html).
How has Sandy personally affected people’s lives? These are their stories in their own voice.
Stephanie from Manhattan:
My office is by Bowling Green. The building utilities are so damaged that they are not expecting us to return until possibly January 2013. My company has two temporary office locations for those who do not have personal computers or company laptops. I am lucky that I have a company laptop and had it with me when Sandy hit. With the limited amount of space in the temporary office, I am able to work out of the office once a week.
Stephanie’s mom lives in Gowanus, Brooklyn. [Sandy] has been hard on my mom. Both her and my sister lost power for a week before my mom decided to come stay with me. My mom needed power to take her medication. Her power was out for two weeks. She also lost water for the first three days, but was still without hot water after it came back on. My mom lives on the 13th floor. Not being able to take her medication or leave home was hard for her.
Michele from Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn: Gerritsen Beach is not a Zone A area. I think it’s because we are on Jamaica Bay. The bay runs around the back of the neighborhood and goes into a canal that divides Old and New Gerritsen Beach. By the time high tide came, we really had no time to evacuate. Many of my neighbors were leaving. I tried to move my car to Gerritsen Avenue thinking it wouldn’t get flooded. I was wrong. The car was floating, and my daughter and I had to climb out the window. Getting home, we had to walk through waist high water. As we were walking, I heard a voice say, “The cars! The cars are making waves!” At that moment I saw a car coming towards us, so we held onto a telephone pole until the waves stopped. By the time I got back to my house, which is street level, there was just as much water if not more. I found every piece of furniture and appliances floating around. I grabbed what I could and we waited. In the morning, the water was gone but everything was covered in mud. It took us three days of non-stop cleaning to get rid of all the furniture and things that had been ruined. We had no power or gas, three small flashlights, and a few candles. Our neighbors were nice enough to give us some batteries and candles. We had to go to our local volunteer fire department to find warm, dry clothes.
National Grid has probably been the biggest thorn in my side through this whole event. I called to get someone to come to my home to get water out of the line so we could try to cook. Getting someone here was an effort and once they arrived, they were absolutely useless. After having about ten National Grid workers here, who told us they got the water out of the line, they realized we had an old locked meter and found a bypass that someone had put there. They confiscated the meter, so I called to have someone come put it back. I was told they would be there between 5pm and midnight. They never showed up. I called the next morning only to find out I never had an appointment, and the meter work would not be done for another two weeks. I went to the National Grid reps and told them my story. They thanked me for being honest and not wanting to steal gas, and that someone would contact me. I have yet to hear from them.
Gloria from Far Rockaway, Queens: LIPA is not good. We have three condo buildings and two rows of meters that were submerged in salt water. All circuit breakers washed out. Our condos have their own private electricians and all meters need to be replaced. Parts are being ordered out of state, but LIPA hasn’t stepped up. My condo is running on a generator; we have heat and hot water. Our boilers are on the roof, thank God.
Dawn from Staten Island: My Hurricane Sandy experience is different than most in that I was one of the lucky ones. As the evening progressed, the winds picked up and I was terrified. I was afraid that water would come in through the ceiling, as it had during Hurricane Irene, or the windows would blow out. We did lose power around 9 pm, but fortunately it came back on within the hour. The next day, I checked the house and luckily everything seemed fine. There were many downed trees outside, but we still had power. I was able to reach my dad; he had no power but was fine. I was really worried about my mom and sister knowing they were close to the water. My sister texted me, “My house is ruined.” That broke my heart. When I finally reached my mom a few days later, she said she was fine. The house had minimal water damage and some shingles from the roof. My sister’s house had over five feet of water! She lost her living room, dining room and kitchen; everything was destroyed. She was most saddened by the photos and teacher items she’d lost (she teaches first grade). She had no electricity or heat for almost three weeks but did not complain. My sister, and friends Joann and Regina, have yellow stickers on their homes which mean “habitable subject to restriction.” Joann lives in the zone that got evacuated by rowboat and helicopter. The water went from the Boardwalk all the way to Hylan Blvd which is the equivalent of ten city blocks.
Sandy may have leveled neighborhoods, caused much sadness and lost, but it didn’t destroy people’s spirit.
In moving forward after hurricane Sandy, Dawn gives this perspective, “One good thing I have found is there is strength in the human spirit. There are still many kind people out there.”