Stars Of Hope From Breezy Point
After Sandy, It seemed that for months, all anyone could talk about was the storm. I too was guilty of this: How much water did you get? Do you still have mold? Do you hate FEMA as much as I do? Sandy and her aftermath had become our world. But after months and months of this, it was time to shake the dust and move on. Nevertheless, simply “moving on” has not been very easy. There are times when my mind can’t help but flash back to that night- the fear and anxiety of losing absolutely everything, and more importantly, everyone that I loved the most. Many know the story quite well. But a year later, sometimes it’s still hard to wrap my head around it all.
I wasn’t home in Breezy for the night of the storm- I had been living in Bay Ridge with my sister, but my parents and my Grandma were all at home and I couldn’t get through to them for hours.
We heard there was a fire, followed with the news that the water was too high for trucks to get through. Breezy Point was on its own. And as the news got worse, so did my imagination.
I remember seeing my mom for the first time after the storm. It was Halloween, but we had both completely forgotten that it was. We were sitting in a Brooklyn bakery, and my mom was drinking her first hot tea in a while. As we sat there, a young girl in a ballerina costume walked into the bakery, looking for a small treat, and I was surprised to see the lady behind the counter firmly shake her head, telling the little girl “no.” My mom was even more surprised. Without blinking an eye, she said: “give her a cookie for Christ’s sake!” The woman behind the counter looked up at us and was completely mortified. I couldn’t help but laugh, because she was right- it was Halloween, give the girl a cookie. After everything my mother had gone through in the previous two days: losing her house, watching her mother’s house burn to the ground, I noticed that something had changed in her. There was a certain fierceness that I had never seen before. And while she has always been a strong woman, I was now sitting across from someone who was not going to take shit from anyone ever again. Once you’ve lost so much, you realize that you don’t need to waste another second of your life answering to anyone else, or waiting for someone to decide when it’s your turn to get what you deserve. The moment to seize your happiness is now.
The next few months after the storm had been the transition era- the gypsy months.. We were living in our makeshift apartments and adjusting to our temporary lifestyles.
Being that most of the clothes we were wearing had been donated to us, and our stress levels were at an all-time high, it became clear that we were not only feeling like gypsies, but we started to look like them too.
Half the time, my parents didn’t know whose shoes they were wearing, and the coat that I had on was two sizes too big for me.
Around this time, a good friend of my parent’s reminded us: “We all must maintain our appearances.” I’ll always remember that. In Breezy Point, Sandy took things that money couldn’t buy back. But there were a few things we took back from her. Strength. Resilience. Determination.
All in all, we may have gained more from this experience than we realized. Certain things that may have seemed trivial in the past have been able to bring such joy. Around seven months ago, the day that my house finally had a working toilet again was one of the biggest reasons to celebrate that we had in a while.
And you know those stars? The stars on telephone poles and lamp posts? The stars of hope.
Randomly seeing and reading those phrases have brought me more tiny moments of happiness than I can remember. There’s one star that stands out in my memory so well, it was painted orange with black stripes and it said: “You are as strong as a tiger.”
I think it’s been the little things that have meant the most.
And for those whose brightness was dimmed last year, I think that light is in sight.