2013-02-15 / Top Stories

Stories From Sandy

A Couple In The Rubble
By Eileen Hodges

Pat and Pat started going out just before Sandy hit. They live in buildings right next to each other on Beach 113th Street. That night, her building lost power quickly so he offered her refuge in his apartment. She is still there.

Gerard Patrick “Pat” Dolan and Patricia “Pat” or “Trish” Bakert are in their fifties and have seen something of life. Nothing quite prepared them for Hurricane Sandy, however. Pat’s initial preparations for the storm included constructing a 12-inch wooden fence around the perimeter of his family home. “Which is a joke, really,” said Trish.

Converted to apartments decades ago, he was concerned for his and his tenant’s belongings in the basement of the large, over 100 year-old home. With the help of his friend and handyman Jack, and Jack’s son, Albert, they built the fence and put plastic sheeting and duct tape on the basement windows and door. It had never flooded before but he wanted to be safe. Walking around outside to check on the fence, the water started rising to 4 inches, then 6, then it was sloshing across the top of the foot-high fence so they rushed back downstairs to see how the windows were holding.

Jack and Albert were by the basement door, Pat was in the boiler room and instructing Albert on how to turn off the gas. “I had to hold the window frame closed because water was starting to come in,” he said. Trish was outside, trying to get in as the water reached 2 feet, then 3 and 4…she went inside, calling down to the basement for them all to “Get out NOW!” Pat had on his earplugs, which he had gotten used to wearing for his job at JFK.

“I thought he was going to drown because he couldn’t hear anything,” said Trish. She shook her head, remembering that night as he gave her a fond look. Pat wears earplugs frequently around town, “I wear them because I am allergic to idiots,” he said.

Soon, the basement door burst open, “like the Poseidon Adventure.” Albert and Jack were able to get out quickly as they were close to the steps. Pat made his way through floating debris and water that within 60 seconds was up to his chin. Before the end of the night the water would reach the ceiling.

Windows in an upper apartment blew in and they pounded a small table into the wall to stop the wind and water. Just down the block, fires on the boulevard started. Water was now up to the top of Pat’s brand new 6-foot fence he installed that summer across the front of the yard. They watched sparks fly past the house and the water kept rising, “I knew if it reached the first floor we were history.” It came within 6 inches.

Everything in the basement, except a small metal box of papers, was ruined. Within days, Pat, Jack and Albert had gotten the water heater and the furnace working. They fixed the roof and cleaned out the basement with the help of Occupy Sandy volunteers. “We were glad to have the young people to help us. Some as far away as Los Angeles.” They realized they could get things done and thought of a business to help others do the same.

Pat was able to “throw away so much nonsense of my life” that he now considers Sandy as a bold adventure. He had left the Rockaways for college and jobs, coming back for family and obligations with an often heavy heart. “I’ve been leaving the Rockaways my whole life,” but since Hurricane Sandy, he now knows it is where he wants to stay.

Having each other helped during the storm and its aftermath, bringing the couple closer. “We got to see each other’s character…how we handle things,” said Trish.

Pat and Pat “Trish,” are now engaged.

They want to stay in the Rockaways and help rebuild. They bought a van and a sign with the name of their new business, “Rockaway Revisions.” Jack and Pat are the remodelers; Trish is an artist and interior designer.

They look forward to a better Rockaway. “Lethargic decisions that needed to be made, will be made, like that stuff in my basement,” said Pat.

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