2012-12-07 / Columnists

Notes from the High C’s

Rockaway Music and Arts Council
By Sharon Gabriel

It's been a very long time since our "High "C's" column has been written and there is so much to speak about here in Rockaway. We have survived the most devastating storm I have ever seen in my lifetime living here on the peninsula.

On the Saturday just preceding the storm, the RMAC had a "Museum Trip" on the American Princess ship out of Riis Landing. We were going to see the fall foliage, changing of the colors on the Palisades.

Tom Pendergast who runs the ship gave us a beautiful trip which included a breakfast, full lunch and snacks on the way back. The weather was so beautiful for the end of October that we could sit outside on the ship to take in the sights. Tom mentioned that we were lucky to be on the trip that day because of a storm coming the next day with a lot of wind and there would be no foliage by the next week. Little did he know how prophetic those words were. We passed Coney Island and all of south Brooklyn, the Battery, the new World Trade Center, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and then up the Hudson for the most spectacular colors you have ever seen. When we returned everyone said good-bye, we'll see you soon and we were off to our homes to await the storm. What could it be even with all the warnings, we in Rockaway have been through all types of storms, snow, wind, hail, hurricanes, rowboats in the streets, but still came the warnings, get out as soon as you can. Having sand in my shoes, as the saying goes, and my parents having come here over 90 years ago, I didn't think I would be going anywhere. However, my family had other ideas and so I was off to Cedarhurst to stay with my cousin, away from all water and wind.

Everything was good - so far - we watched the trees swaying on Sunday, went to sleep and woke up to an unbelievable storm on Monday. We were sure it would end soon and I would be back in Rockaway.

No way!!!. The lights and electric went out in Cedarhurst as well as the phones, and over the next three days we were freezing. My cousin's son was able to hook up her generator but with gas becoming an on and off thing, we were only able to have the refrigerator working. But that was better than nothing.

At least there was food and we had some lanterns for light and a little transistor radio.

Colder and colder it got when some friends who live in Larchmont, and also lost their heat and electric, suggested we drive there and then we could all go to their second home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. This was a blessing, to get away from the cold.

At this point I had to return to Rockaway for more clothes, this was probably on Thursday and what I found was heartbreaking. Tears were in my eyes at what I saw. Rockaway literally looked like a third-world country. I could barely get to my apartment, walked up several flights of stairs in the pitch-black and looked out my front windows which face the beach. No Boardwalk!!!!! I couldn't believe it. I have never seen such devastation. Overturned cars, cars on top of one another, pieces of boardwalk with bench and railing still attached sitting on top of a car, fences down and sand covering everything, it looked like the Sahara. And the fires!!! What in the world happened here? When we returned from Pittsfield on the following Sunday evening, the phone and electric had been turned on and so we had a television where we saw what went on not only here in Rockaway but all along the shoreline.

I cannot explain my feelings at that time. I just felt so horrible for everyone. Many of my friends, and also members of the RMAC board had major damage to their homes with the losses of a lifetime destroyed in their basements. On top of that, we lost a very close associate of the RMAC. Nat Liberman, husband of our Vendor Chairman, Fern Liberman passed away in the middle of all this. Nat was always there at the Festivals helping in every way possible and was a great friend to all of us. Nat was also co-President of Temple Beth-El of Rockaway Park and a personal friend and will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him. I know things have gotten a little better for some people but there are still many in Rockaway who will not have their lives back for a long, long time. To our friends in Breezy, I wish I had the right words to express my feelings for your devastation and to all in Belle Harbor and the rest of our community I hope and pray we all come through this in a good way.

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