2013-01-11 / Columnists

Broad Channel Bits

Commentary By Dan Guarino

So, Broad Channel, here we are in 2013.

One Sunday not long ago, I was stopped at the traffic light on East 6th Road and Crossbay. The radio began to play, “There are places I remember…all my life, though some have changed…Some forever…..some have gone and some remain…”

Looking to my left and my right at our Broad Channel after the devastation of the storm, I couldn’t help it. There alone in the car, the tears began to flow. They wouldn’t stop.

No doubt we have all had those moments. I know I’ve heard quite a few stories that ended in tears—here, in the Rockaways, other places I have been, among the many people I’ve talked to.

There will be time enough for those stories. There are plenty of them to tell.

But here at the start of this new year, let’s start with a different story about Broad Channel.

This one was told to me by four people Carol, Patty, Brad and Fred - one recent cold January night. This one was about people helping people.

Carol told me how she and her family have been helping other family members and friends, and how they have been helped in return. Sometimes with a place to stay, sometimes with basics like food and clothing.

A long time Ladies Auxiliary member, she told me about how the American Legion has been helping people in the Channel all the way through.

Likewise I have heard about all the good work the VFW, the BCAC, St. Virgilius, Christ Presbyterian, the Civic Association and other Channel organizations have done even while struggling heavily with their own Sandy damage and displacement.

Patty told me how neighbors practically broke down her door the night of the storm to get her to safety. And they along with friends and family made sure she had a place to stay and warm, dry clothes.

She mentioned how she in turn has been helping a Broad Channel neighbor to make sure all the area cats are fed, cared for and have some shelter from the cold and rain.

Brad told me how he has been helping neighbors pull out damaged walls and floors and rebuild. He’s a busy gentleman, now working two jobs. One of them is in reconstruction and rebuilding.

Fred told us about when he came to his establishment, one of Broad Channel’s two bars, right after the hurricane. He found there was much damage. Thankfully though, much of his stock was still intact.

As he began to clear the wreckage and stack up what was left, he found people started to stop by. They started to gather, started to tell their own Sandy stories.

He decided to clear away debris, string up work lights, bring in a space heater or two, all running off a generator, and officially open up his doors.

In the weeks to come, people not only shared their stories, what happened to them, what they lived through, but also what came next for them.

And they began to share more. Not only their experiences, but also what they’d heard. What they’d found out along the way—what resources they found, what to avoid, how to get aid, who or what agency to call, who was offering what, how to go about it. How to navigate FEMA, insurance, SBA, assistance programs. What to do and what not to do and what they might have that someone else could use and vice versa.

Fred also told me how a team of Mormon volunteers had come to his house day after day and helped him with the tremendous task of removing the damaged and molding floors and walls.

This hit home as I recall seeing a neighbor, a very dear friend, the day after the storm. She was so distraught, so devastated by what Sandy had done to her home. The upset I saw in her face broke my heart. When I saw her again, a few weeks later, having a hot meal at the Legion with her lovely family and friends, she looked immensely better.

It the midst of all that had happened, she told me, these wonderful people came to her door. These ready, willing and able yellow-vested Mormon volunteers came and put her house back together. She was smiling, her face was glowing.

Fred told me that he had received a call just the other week. It was the volunteer group who had worked on his house. They were contacting everyone they could reach whom they had helped. They wanted to know that everything was alright. They wanted to know if there was anything else they could do before they left the area and moved on to the Rockaways.

These are the stories we told on that just after New Year’s Thursday night.

There are many other stories of many others who came to help.

Most were private groups who without hesitation took it upon themselves to help. They just came. Some brought hot food to Channel street corners. Some, like those great people from Texas, the Chapel Creek Fellowship from Fort Worth, set up shop just outside the Legion. Others brought their mobile food trucks.

Others like the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation came with financial and other aid. There were Sikhs and other religious and civic groups who came and freely gave their hard work and open hearts. There were companies, organizations and individuals far and wide who came to help us stand up and make our way through.

And there were neighbors, some who were left with nearly nothing, who gave to other neighbors, workers and volunteers.

In the days and weeks after Hurricane Sandy, here in Broad Channel we greeted many who came to our town with helping hands, taking on the work of restoring our island, whether with shoulder to shoulder hard work, hot food, financial support or spiritual comfort. We greeted our own across our Bay soaked streets and out of our almost standing front doors. We offered whatever we could to help each other out.

Wherever we are now, at the start of this New Year, these are the stories worth remembering and worth retelling.

Thank you, Carol, Patty, Brad and Fred, and everyone else in Broad Channel, for sharing those stories with us all.

Got Broad Channel news? We sure could use it! E-mail to workingstories@aol.com. Thanks for reading.

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