2013-11-01 / Top Stories

Rockaway Rises One Year Later

By Katie McFadden

Rockaway residents joined hands across the sand to commemorate a year since Hurricane Sandy struck the peninsula and to show that the community is making a comeback. More than 4,000 people gathered for the Rockaway Rising event on Sunday, October 27th. The ceremony was made for residents to come together as they did right after the storm and to reflect on the past year. Event organizer, Lily Corcoran was also hoping to set a Guinness Book World Record with the event. Corcoran will be sending documentation of the event to England to see if the community was able to pull it off. Corcoran says that the final count isn’t in, but she believes it will tip 7,000 as residents of Island Park also participated simultaneously.

Residents weren’t the only ones who came out. Along the line were some who had volunteered to help Rockaway after Sandy, like those of Mormon Helping Hands. They were easy to spot as they wore the same yellow vests that they wore while helping families get rid of flooded items a year ago.

The ceremony included forming a human chain by holding hands and moments of silence to remember those who were lost and to pray and hope for a better year ahead. Bagpiper John McManus and drummer Ed Shevlin marched along the line of people while playing as an FDNY boat sprayed water from cannons on the ocean. The ceremony ended with residents writing wishes on paper lanterns and placing them in the water along with flowers.

Corcoran got the idea for the Rockaway Rising event in January. “I thought the community is broken up right now. FEMA, the government and the city let us down and people aren’t holding hands anymore,” she said. “I wanted to do this close to the anniversary. I wanted to get everyone together as the family that we were after the storm and hold hands and pray that it never happens again.”

Corcoran was moved to tears by the participation and seeing her dream come true. “When the boat started and they started piping and seeing the people throw flowers into the ocean, it got to me.”

Corcoran only had the help of a handful of volunteers that were stationed at different points on the beach, so trying to get the event organized to perfection was a challenge. Large groups of people formed chains at different spots and there was some confusion about directions, but despite the mishaps, Corcoran said she may try again next year. “I think I might do it as long as I get help,” she said. In the meantime, Corcoran is working on another event for the holidays.

Photos by Laura Deckelman, Dan Guarino, Edward Gormley and Katie McFadden. Photos by Laura Deckelman, Dan Guarino, Edward Gormley and Katie McFadden.

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