2013-04-26 / Columnists

Broad Channel Bits

Commentary By Dan Guarino

One chilly day years ago, my wife Liz and I stopped at one of Broad Channel’s bagel places to pick up breakfast before heading out.

She had tea and a big cranberry muffin. I had my favorite, an everything bagel with cream cheese and coffee. We ate in the car.

When she finished her breakfast, she abruptly got out of the car, stood up, and brushed down her long coat thoroughly, leaving all her cranberry muffin crumbs on the ground. Then she promptly got back in the car.

“What was that about,” I asked?

“Well,” she said, “the ants have got to eat, too!”

That’s the kind of person she was. Liz, who wrote this column for many years, and who passed away two years ago, would have celebrated a birthday on Saturday, April 27th.

She had lived many places, including California, Chicago and Hawaii. But when we found it, we both knew Broad Channel was home.

I got an e-mail from Father Richie letting me know St. Camillus’s kindergarten class was celebrating its return home after months on the move following Hurricane Sandy.

Monday morning, April 22nd, we stood on the sand that had blown back over the yard behind the school. A fife and several drums played and we all sang “America, The Beautiful”.

The whole school- teachers, students, staff- as well as parents and guests then filed into the small courtyard near the school and behind the rectory.

There all the kindergarten children lined up, each with a small pair of scissors in hand, and together they cut the ribbon. They were home.

You know, it’s very hard taking these pictures with tears in my eyes.

There will be many things our Broad Channel and Rockaway children will live through in these days and months after the storm. Their experiences will be those that no other generation will have and many would not believe.

These they will take with them through life, even into their distant silver years. Oh, there are tears and heartbreaks aplenty. But there are also homecomings, gatherings, changes, new appreciations of things, renewals and, yes, returns.

Once simple things like opening days and new classrooms now have whole new meanings. After Sandy, each one is brand new; each is a first.

Those small, eager children at St. Camillus, for instance, were the first to set foot in that classroom, the first to sit in its tiny, brand new chairs.

As we continue to celebrate these milestones in our world after Sandy, one thing our little ones will be able to say again and again, will be “We were there! We were the first!”

This just in: “The Beautification Committee has been busy replacing and repairing all the green tree boxes along the boulevard in preparation of the annual Adopt-A-Tree and Spring Planting event. We invite everyone to join in the celebration by planting along the median of Cross Bay Boulevard. Starts 10 a.m. Saturday, May 11th. The committee will be distributing flowers, flags and treats. Hope to see you there.”

You’ll be reading more about it in The Wave, but the Broad Channel Athletic Club Opening Day was a terrific event that brought out hundreds of kids, from smallest to biggest, and plenty of adults.

The parade from East 17th Road Park to the BCAC Memorial field was several blocks long and dozens of kids deep at any point.

The day was windy and gray, but you could not have found a more excited bunch. Especially the 9-11 year olds when a camera was pointed at them!

It looked like the whole town flooded onto the field at the end of the parade. The PS 47 chorus, led by Julia Daudlin, sang “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” and many joined in!

The BCAC Shamrocks played St. Kevin on Saturday, April 20th. Although they did not win, they did come back the next day, beating Blessed Trinity by 5-1.

The neighbors are not happy. It’s dawn on our fellow Sandy-struck communities up and down the coast that the twin disasters of the new FEMA elevations and Biggert-Waters are poised to knock us down just when we’re trying to get back up!

First I heard some people talking, for the first time, about skyrocketing flood insurance, at the Waldbaum’s in Howard Beach.

Next several hundred disgruntled people showed up at a FEMA town-hall meeting on April 11th. There’s now a Howard Beach United Facebook page which encourages people to share their experiences and band together.

Over in Toms River, they’re howling about what these federal edicts will mean for their communities, and the New Jersey economy as a whole.

And I just got an e-mail about a Stop FEMA Now meeting in Bayville, Long Island. That organization’s reach is spreading like wildfire.

One of the things they’re asking is “If you are in an association such as Elk’s, VFW, Waterfront Association, Teachers Union, Policeman’s union, etc…. Contact the presidents and board members… and have them join our group.”

Just wait till our neighbors in the Midwest, now trying to save their own towns and homes from raging flood waters, realize that they, too, may soon have the wet rug pulled from under them!

Finally, I’d like to mention someone who, like Liz, should have gotten to celebrate many more birthdays than she did- my best friend Kellie Stecyk. Her birthday would have been April 9th. We lost her three and a half years ago.

Well, we all have been through a lot. And yet we keep going.

Years ago when Liz and I were working on the book “Images of America: Broad Channel,” one of the things we wrestled with was the dedication. Who should we dedicate this book, our first, to? And what should we say?

After some discussion we both hit on something we knew was absolutely right, and then found the words to say it in just the right way.

We wrote: “This book is dedicated to the people of Broad Channel- past, present and future.”

Here’s to you, Broad Channel!

Thanks for reading.

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