common / RockawayPark

What Remains

By Maureen McNelis

All Hallows Eve has a more ominous sound than usual this year, as Rockawayites and many other Northeastern residents wait silently for Halloween to pass—along with any storm that might come with it.

What more can be said of Sandy? I still recall two teens strolling down the middle of my street last year a day or so after (the only place you could walk!) and saying to me in that quiet sarcasm endemic to young Rockaway males, ‘Trick or Treat!’

Yeah. And that stoicism prevailed. We were all ‘tough guys’ when the shock and the water subsided, but we were swiftly ‘bullied’ into a gentler state by the kindness of strangers, those people who came from all over to raise us up again.

Sure, it was a remarkable time, a cold and wet time; our streets, mountains of sand and relentless debris— upside-down or otherwise dead cars, while prized gas-guzzling generators pumped energy inside for the fridge — and some light! — as we tried to read and keep warm around the kitchen table. After all, candles could do only so much on this new frontier.

Yeah. We know all about the dirty clothes we wore, the personal loss and hardships we all endured, losses that for many, extended into months and for some, are unresolved.

Personally, I’m fine. I have two rows of zombie hedges, still standing, but not quite breathing, and a cellar that looks like a serial-killer’s paradise. My house is like the apartment you wish you could leave. But I’m not on the streets.

And what remains, then, a year later, other than the devout prayer that the government will fix things, properly protect the shoreline, maybe take away the expensive praying mantis lifeguard/ bathroom facilities?

What stays, and is worth keeping?

Camaraderie of the neighbors we now must love: We loved each other then. Let that stay.

An understanding of what hardship, true hardship that doesn’t relent must be, unless you are lucky enough to live in the United States like we do. That appreciation should stay.

The pride in ourselves for knuckling under and putting- back. Yes, keep that.

The Rockaway Post Theater’s reopening performance said this all so grandly in their tribute to us, and to their talent. At times, I was next to tears.

Oh. One thing; and I nearly forgot: We’ll keep in our hearts forever those who gave us sandwiches, services and goodwill from across the nation and across the sea. We, I, stand in awe of their graciousness, much beyond my own narrow scope, I’m afraid. That humility remains with us long past any storm.

Shine on, Bright Stars.

Maureen McNelis is an author and playwright who lives in Rockaway Park.

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