Stories From Sandy...
In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, there are probably a million stories right here on the Rockaway peninsula.
From floods to fires, those stories run the gamut of life during and after the storm.
The storm surge caused loss of life, untold losses in property and for some a few pretty close calls.
Many of those stories were told in the pages of the city’s daily newspapers.
Denis Hamill of the Daily News reported on FDNY Lt. Tommy Woods, from Beach 130 Street. Woods strapped his 82 year-old mother Mary to a surfboard and took her five blocks through rising flood waters to his brother’s home. Using a kayak he returned to his home to see it engulfed in flames. Despite their own loss, he and his 14 year-old son Brendan also saved a girl with multiple sclerosis from her home and brought her to his brother’s home. Two definite heroes.
The newsmagazine 60 Minutes spoke with Mike McDonnell, who initially took refuge in a home with some of his neighbors. As the flood waters burst windows, embers of fire were about to turn the house into an inferno.
“The windows blew in. You'll hear, pop, pop, pop, pop. And all the water came rushing in,” McDonnell told CBSs Scott Pelley. “It came right up the stairwell. I said, ‘I'm going to the front of the house to see how much tide is still gonna rise.’ At that moment, a gas line blew. And there were embers of fire pouring over the house. They equal to that of a snow globe. If you shake a snow globe and you see all the white coming down. But this was raining fire.”
McDonnell took anything he could find to form one giant rope and tied one end to the banister and the other to a tree. One by one he carried six people to safety. Another hero.
Tavia lives on the first floor of a two-story home on the ocean side of Beach 66 Street. She was taking stock of her losses and drying out photos when she invited The Wave into her washed out apartment just days after the storm.
“I’m grateful to have my life,” said Tavia on November 5. “My brother had to come to get me out of my apartment.”
Five days after the storm Tavia was fuming that no help was in the area.
“People are still trapped, the streets are muddy …. Where are the elected officials, the Red Cross…. I understand the power situation,” said Tavia.
She added, “People are breaking into homes …looting …. A lot of us didn’t want to leave.”
Leonard Bostick lives on the first floor of a home on Gouverneur Avenue and Beach 69 Street. Like a lot of people he lost everything. The waterline was close to the ceiling. Everything was water logged. Years of old photos soaked.
Bostick told The Wave that he loves Rockaway and doesn’t want to leave, but he probably would not stay in the area he lives in now.
Carleen Mitchell lives at Carlton Manor on Beach 71 Street. She has lived in Rockaway for 40 years. The Wave met her in front of her building on November 2. “We just got the generator and we have water,” said Mitchell.
What they didn’t have was food. Mitchell and her fellow Carlton Manor residents watched as other larger developments were receiving aid in the form of food.
Police Officer Espinet said, “They need more than water. They need hot food.”
“All the others are getting attention,” said Mitchell. “This one is being bypassed…. Whoever is providing food forgot about Carlton Manor.” After making a phone call to Councilman James Sanders’ representatives to advise them of the development being overlooked, The Wave learned food did arrive shortly thereafter. These are just some of the stories that came out of Superstorm Sandy. From them one thing is evident, no matter who you are everyone on the peninsula was affected by this disaster.
By Christine Russell
This is the first of first-person accounts of the impact of Sandy on Rockaway residents. To submit your story, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
At 4 p.m. Sunday the 28th, my husband and I, along with Evan, felt it necessary to travel down to 69th street to check up on my in-laws. Despite that we were traveling in heavily flooded areas we forged ahead. My in-laws insisted that they had been through other hurricanes and that they were not going to leave despite the fact that they live right on Jamaica Bay. At 6 p.m. my daughter’s boyfriend Zach pointed out that if I was going to head back for the dog (Butter) which was now my main concern being alone in the house, that I should leave soon. So I left there at 6 p.m. taking my son Evan with me. I should have realized when I got in the car that since the water was now up to the wheel wells that it might not be such a good idea, but I had to get home to Butter....Passing a few heavily flooded areas I thought it was going to be ok traveling up 72 Street towards the beach....but at 78th Street my car was refusing to continue. The water had gotten too deep. While on the phone with my other son we were overcome by a wave of great force that turned our car towards the ocean. My thought originally was to stay in the car since at that time there was no water in the car but on the flooring. But facing the ocean now gave to second thoughts that we might be forced on an outgoing wave into the ocean. I decided since Evan is special needs that it would not be wise to each go out different doors fearing the possibility of being separated in the gusty winds, falling debris, and torrential waves. So I sat on his lap and we both went out the passenger side door. I told him we were going to head for the scaffolding and then to the front of the building. He was a trooper never letting go of me or the scaffolding. Had either of us let go we would have been swept away by the force of the water. We made it to the entrance only to discover no one in sight and backed out. I then decided to try to continue following the scaffolding along to the rear of the building to maybe make it to the gate and out to Rockaway Beach Boulevard. But then again the force and debris and now cars were being pushed around so forcefully that I did not think we could make it that far and there would be nothing to hold onto between where I was and the fence. I decided to turn back and hope we could make it back to a side door which was under the awning and had a handle to hold onto. We stood in the water up to our chest holding onto the scaffolding and door handle for two hours.....just hoping to be able to wait it out. Now it is about 9 p.m. when a woman from three flights up just happened to look out her balcony with a flash light. I screamed we are here.....She stated, "Oh my god there are people down there...hold on.” I could never have felt so relieved just knowing that someone at least knew we were there. The woman got the security guard and a few others to try to open this side door. The force is great. They pushed and Evan and I pulled. It opened and we fell into the building. The woman and security brought us upstairs. The woman took us to her apartment. She had no idea who we were but took us into her already family filled apartment, gave us clean dry clothing, offered food and water and the use of her cell phone so I could try to let my family know we are alive. They had no reservations in caring for us. Meanwhile my husband, daughter and Zach had themselves gotten stuck in their car in hopes of trying to save us. The next morning, Evan and I left quietly and headed home on foot. We got one lift to 105 Street and that person stopped before he got stuck...then we got another lift. When the gentleman asked where we were going and I said 129th....there was silence....Why? He didn't know what side of the block we lived on and didn't know if he was bringing me back to a house that no longer existed. So I would publically like to thank Theresa Boland and her flashlight, her three children Jessica, Rebecca and Vincent who sat up with us…and Margaret McRedmond, the grandma who insisted on us getting into dry clothing and made us feel at home....Thank you Thank you Thank you !