2012-12-14 / Columnists

Broad Channel Bits

By Dan Guarino

Last week I woke to thick, hazy fog just outside my window. But nothing else outside or in was the same. Then I realized I wasn’t in Broad Channel at all. Oddly there were street lights, cars, sounds and people going back and forth outside. Inside there was heat, lights, electricity and television chattering. Even telephones, cellphones and internet. A warm bed, hot water, hot food and refrigeration.

Nobody else where I was staying after Hurricane Sandy could exactly understand why this was so strange to me.

Like many Broad Channel people displaced by the storm I am also living, temporarily I hope, elsewhere. Right now Broad Channel people are spread as far and wide as upstate New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Florida and Texas. I’ve met neighbors living in their half gutted, cold, unheated homes while repairs are made and the rest of the family is living elsewhere. We have stood in their ripped out living rooms, all the furniture and years of their lives gone. It’s slow going but they plan on coming back once the work is done.

Like more than a few people, I am in a difficult position. I rent. Steady tenants for over 20 years, my late wife Liz and I have called the white house at the corner of Noel and Walton home for a long, long time. Children, grandchildren, pets- life itself with all its laughter and tears has flowed through that second floor apartment over those years.

We have been in the Channel for 25 years.

Although work is proceeding on the damaged first floor, there seems to be some question about my apartment being there when I get back. (Yes, as suggested I am already meeting with NYC Housing’s civil legal division.)

One month and three weeks ago this past Monday, with the wind blowing and the tide rising on Noel Road below, I was working on the next Broad Channel Bits column, trying to finish it before the electric went out.

“Hard to say…(as) this is being written,” I wrote, “where Hurricane Sandy will leave things by Tuesday morning.”

But “life in the Channel goes on and you are probably reading a dry newspaper by now.”

Boy, was I wrong.

It’s not possible to really set down in words the wreckage that Hurricane Sandy brought to Broad Channel, our home, our community. Along with neighbors I watched waves from the Bay, as deep as five or six feet, roll down our streets.

From my window I saw a boat, a big boat, come skating along our street, come about, smack its aft section into a phone pole and wedge its bow into a house front across the way.

My neighbors Mike and Jeanine said the boat, the Hammer II, had come up a side street as if someone were piloting it, making good head way. It made a left and proceeded to narrowly almost pass between a telephone pole and a house. A loud boom echoed as it hit the house and moved on.

Another neighbor, Louisa, on West Road told me later how she swam through four feet of water to reach the Broad Channel train station. Making it to safety, she rode out the storm alone up in the dark and empty waiting area. She describes the A train tracks disappearing under the water.

Another neighbor describes how his son rescued a man from drowning in the middle of Noel Road after hearing his cries at 3 a.m. They took him into their home and he stayed till morning.

The Sisters at the old St. Virgilius Rectory told me they missed being flooded by inches. Taking in about 24 people forced out of their homes as waters rose and the storm raged, they made room, found blankets and pillows and kept spirits up. Men were quartered on the first floor; women and children on the second.

Neighbors across the street told me how the whole family grabbed pets and scrambled upstairs. No one knew then how high the waters might rise. Two turtles were left behind in the dark and confusion.

They were found the next morning in their upturned aquarium. They were fine. “Sure,” I remarked. “Unlike us, they were in their element the whole time.”

Eddie O’Hare, who told me of properties being demolished by the storm, said he and his wife Ginger barely got out of the area, with flood waters racing up behind their car.

That Monday, October 29, I was letting friends and family know via phone calls and e-mail that I was just fine. I’d see them the next day or later in the week.

Later, after dashing to finish and save that last, long ago Broad Channel Bits column, I shut down the computer and watched as eerie, cold dark water pressed quietly around my front door and climbed five to six feet up my inside stairs.

Leaning over when I began to hear an electrical pop-pop-pop, I shut down my circuit breaker mains with a wooden broom handle. The water was just a foot below the panel.

Finally, true to the Broad Channel Historical calendar’s high tide information, at 8:59 p.m. the deluge peaked, stood still, and then began to slowly drop.

Broad Channel probably breathed out for the first time that awful night.

These are just a small few of the stories of how Broad Channelers made it through Hurricane Sandy. I expect to hear new ones for some time to come and welcome any you’d like to send to this column.

You might check Youtube postings by Matthew Troy, Jennifer Badamo and others for their stories, and ours, in pictures.

In our next columns we’ll talk about the aftermath, recovery, change and renewal.

The morning after that terrible storm I met a woman walking down Cross Bay Boulevard. What she said to me then is what I wish to leave you and yours with now. “God bless you. You’re alive. God bless you, at least you’re alive.”

For that, neighbor, I am most profoundly grateful.

We are still open for BC news and info! Send to workingstories@aol.com.

Thanks for reading.

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