Stories From Sandy
Twenty five or so years ago I moved to Rockaway for the love of a man and the beach, so I still consider myself a new resident. The man has long since left my life, but my love affair with the beach and the community has grown steadily as the years progressed. Sandy only served to increase it tenfold. I now have a lot of memories that remind me of this. The night of the storm, my next door neighbor opened his doors to me and my cat, so we didn't have to be alone in a ground floor apartment worrying all night (and thankfully when I went back there was very little damage).
For the next few days everyone on our block, and I'm sure every other block in Rockaway, hung out outside - if we didn't know each other's names pre-Sandy we introduced ourselves and celebrated our survival and checked on the status of others we knew. Neighbors loaned each other tools when they saw you didn't have the proper ones for the job at hand. They also provided hot coffee when they came back from Brooklyn and hugs when they saw you needed one.
Another memory is the 40 or 50 foot piece of boardwalk that lay across our street, complete with a bench. Sometimes when you looked at it, someone would be sitting on the bench.
The hand painted stars that twinkle on a myriad of telephone booths; I have no idea where they come from and have decided I like it that way.
The 15 foot long sand dragon, created out a tiny fraction of the sand hauled out of my driveway that made passersby smile and chat. The people passing by were often people heading to where the boardwalk used to be to use the informal phone booth – it seemed to be the only place that had cell reception, so it was yet another meeting place.
The 8 inch high Madonna that appeared at the far end of my driveway by my front door and then disappeared a few days later, which made me think she’d gone on to watch over and comfort someone else.
Dr. Rogoff and Sinon held business hours on the sidewalk in front of the animal hospital.
There was so much free food and of such variety that friends began a verbal “Rockaway’s Guide” similar to Zagat’s Guide. I happened along some Sikh gentlemen who gave me a bowl of Rajma (curried kidney beans), which has become one of my favorite meals.
The bumper to bumper traffic at the end of the day as thousands of volunteers went home to rest up so they could help us some more the next day.
The morning I took an early morning walk on the beach and saw an armed forces ship land on the beach and disgorge a couple of trucks. I have no idea the type of ship it was, but it was awe inspiring and I knew we were getting help!
The jokes that you heard over and over, so that they became a mantra of resilience – “I wanted a beach front home, but maybe not quite this beach front.”
The awning in front of the burned out Harbor Lights being re-erected – was there ever a clearer non-verbal statement that Rockaway (and hopefully the Harbor Lights) will rise again?
The hundreds of people who heard the call and walked a mile on the beach to express the need for monies and remind the rest of the country what we’re experiencing.
My community may be physically damaged, but the heart of the community – the people - are stronger than ever and my personal heart swells with pride whenever I walk through my neighborhood. We are indeed “Rockaway Strong”.