2013-01-18 / Columnists

Stories From Sandy

A Broad Channel Tale
By: Stephanie Wagner and Margaret Wagner

I was born and raised in Broad Channel. I attended St. Vigilius School (Class of 04), Archbishop Molloy High School

(Class of 08) and am now a Business Management Major at Molloy College.

Here's my story:

The night of the storm I stayed at my brother’s house on West 14th Road. His house was closer to the boulevard and much higher up than mine, so I never thought the water would reach it.

Well, I was wrong! We went from sitting around drinking beers and playing games to huddling up in his attic to escape the water!

I remember my brother telling me we had to go to the attic as I stood on top of the counter with over three feet of water under me. At that point it still didn't even hit me.

As we made our way up to the attic my brother was last to come up. He passed me up dry clothes, extra blankets and the last thing he passed up was a bag of tools.

When I asked what they were for he told me it was in case the water didn't stop and we had to break out. That's when it got real.

When the water finally began to recede we were able to come back down and were able to get to a safer house. I just remember running through the streets seeing cars and boats tossed around everywhere, the smell of oil as everyone’s tanks had been ripped out and tossed around. The sky was lit up in orange and red from the flames of the burning houses right over the water in Rockaway and Breezy Point. It felt like scenes from a movie.

It is something I will never forget.

The night in all was nothing but a nightmare, but the reality of it the next day was even worse. I remember walking around my town and just seeing the saddened faces of my friends, family and neighbors as they emptied out what was left of their homes.

My heart was aching for everyone. Everything we had ever known was gone.

I was the Manager at Bayview Restaurant and to find that our restaurant was completely destroyed literally broke my heart.

Bayview was my second home. Our staff was like one big family and everything I did revolved around Bayview. It actually physically, mentally and emotionally hurt me to see it destroyed.

There was no sense of reality anymore. My car was flooded, my job was gone and my home was destroyed.

But as bad as I felt, I knew that everyone I loved was going through the same thing. I didn’t want everyone to feel that hurt. I didn't want to see pain in everyone’s eyes. I wanted to do something, anything, to help. I had to do something to bring people’s spirits back, to give them hope.

A lot of old friends and family in other states were contacting me through Facebook and asking for updates and how they could help.

Since a lot of areas were destroyed, I felt that our little island would be more than likely overlooked when it came to distributing donation funds, so I wanted something that would go directly to us.

I decided to set up a donation page and I was able to do it quickly and easily right from my phone. My friend, Stevie, actually drove to Broad Channel from Howard Beach, so that I could charge my phone in his car!

When I started the page I didn't really know what to expect.

To my surprise when I woke up I had $140 in donations. It really made me smile just knowing people wanted to help. The next day I had $800... and before I knew it I had over $10,000.

I continued to spread my page through Facebook and Twitter and asked others to share it. I was so overwhelmed by all of the donations and support from the page and I had hoped that other people in town felt that way as well.

I began to write to different companies hoping to have somebody match our donations.

With getting many negative responses back or none at all, I started to get a little discouraged. Christmas was getting closer and I wanted all of the money distributed before the holidays. The only problem was I wanted it to be completely fair, something for everyone, and with 900 homes in Broad Channel I knew this would be tough.

I started thinking about a toy drive or something at our Annual Christmas Tree Lighting but I knew a lot of plans were already being made for that.

Then, Michelle Cutrone Green gave me the idea of Christmas decorations on the Boulevard (Cross Bay).

I thought it was an awesome idea, but I was also worried. I didn't know how everyone would feel about using some of the money towards decorations, but I did think it would lift everyone’s spirits.

I e-mailed a couple of other Broad Channel Athletic Club (BCAC) members and parents in town to get their opinions and everyone agreed it was a great idea.

With the help of my Mom we were able to find a company to rent and install the decorations. Around the same time I received an e-mail from P.C. Richard & Sons telling me they would match $5,000 of the donations in gift cards.

I was ecstatic! It was as if one good thing after another was finally happening and I couldn't be happier.

We got one hundred $100 gift cards and decided to raffle them off at the football field, so that it would be fair. Over 300 people came down to sign-up.

The same day volunteers from the Lakeland Copper Beach Middle School threw a BBQ for the town with trays of hot food, homemade cookies and cakes, clothes, toys, Santa and elves. The Wappinger’s Congress of Teachers also brought down toys they had purchased and donated to the Broad Channel kids.

We also got some gift cards and drill sets from ACE Hardware to raffle off.

Overall, it was an awesome day! I was so happy with the turn out.

People were actually coming up to me in tears thanking me for the Christmas lights on the Boulevard.

So many thank you’s from everyone and even letters in the mail thanking me! I have to say that was the best part. Just knowing that I helped everybody get into the holiday spirit during this horrible time really made everything worth it.

That is the thing about Broad Channel, when there is someone in need everyone is here for them... when the town was in need... well everyone was there for each other.

It was neighbor helping neighbor, friend helping friend. I would have to be crazy to not want to help my beloved town!

I still have the donation page open and I hope to continue to receive donations. I plan on running some kind of future event to raise money once things slow down a bit here and people have some time to get out for a night and enjoy themselves.

This is a small town, but it’s a strong one and just to be a part of it is an incredible feeling. I am so proud to be a "Chanimal"!

Note The page is: www.wepay.com/donations/broadchannel. - Stephanie Wagner

****

I wanted to talk about my daughter's Broad Channel Relief Fund. She is only 22 years old.The day after the Hurricane hit she created this page with what little service she had left on her cell phone.

She could not believe the destruction of her town and felt compelled to do something to help.

Knowing that a few of her friends that didn't live in the area wanted to help she thought about how donations could help people. Her page has collected over $13,000.00. She then wrote to a few stores asking them if they would match some of her funds. This was a frustrating task because many of them did not even respond.

Then just a day before she was going to buy gift cards, PC Richards responded. They matched $5,000 of the relief money. She was able to give out one hundred $100.00 gift cards. Stephanie is also responsible for lighting up Cross Bay Boulevard with the Christmas garland and lights. She brought people to tears with these lights.

It not only was a lift for Broad Channel but it also lifted some spirits of Rockaway and Breezy Point residents going down Cross Bay back to their homes. It was a sign that we will be okay and it lit up people's hearts!

I am a proud mom! I am happy to know that the next generation will take care of their hometown just as we have and just as the generation before us has.

-Margaret Wagner

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