It’s been three weeks since Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast and destroyed numerous homes and cars along the way. I live in Long Beach, New York. This was the first hurricane that my town endured since the 1930s, and it was a bad one.
Long Beach is situated off the coast of Long Island. It’s a small island that encompasses Atlantic Beach, Long Beach, Lido Beach, and Point Lookout. When Hurricane Sandy hit on October 29th, the ocean met the bay and the entire town looked as if it was underwater. My neighbors described it as a river running through the neighborhood.
I wasn’t home when it hit. I had a scheduled flight that was cancelled coming from Florida to New York. I was visiting my dad. It was the first time I was back to see him since my mother passed nearly six months ago. To say the least, it was an emotional visit.
Even though there was an emergency evacuation, my husband was home and so were all of our neighbors. A year ago, there was another emergency evacuation and it was a false alarm. When that happened, everyone left. This time, no one left. Most people were there to witness the effects of the storm.
Everyone was touched by the storm, no matter if they lost a car, a home, electricity, cell service, or just watched as the island looked as if it were to float away.
When I finally got a flight out Wednesday night and tried to get into town, I was told to turn around. There was a curfew and no one was allowed to enter or leave after 7 p.m. I stayed with my sister who lives in the center of Long Island.
The next morning, my son and I drove through Oceanside and Island Park into Long Beach. As we were driving, we noticed that there were boats everywhere but in the water. It was a sight to see. If we hadn’t witnessed this, I would have never believed that this could happen.
When we got to Long Beach, we noticed a few things – sand was everywhere. It looked as if everyone on the Island had beachfront property. The other thing we noticed was that a part of the boardwalk, which spans 2.1 miles, was on Park Avenue, several blocks away from its original location. We even saw a ticket booth blocks from the beach!
The Red Cross was there handing out potato chips and water, and FEMA gave out meals that automatically heated up. There was no food anywhere else. Every restaurant, every bar, and every shop was either boarded up or flooded out.
When I got to my home I saw my own personal devastation. The first floor of my home was destroyed along with both my cars. All of my stuff was ruined. Fifteen years of being in the house was destroyed. It was now only a memory. Things that I saved through the years were garbage because they were soaked in salt water.
That weekend, my sister, her boyfriend, my niece, my friend, and my immediate family and I unloaded everything and threw it outside. Whatever was salvageable went upstairs to a place that wasn’t wet. We had nearly a foot of water but the water soaked into everything like a sponge. It was devastating.
I remember when Hurricane Katrina happened and how upset I was to see people trapped in their homes or just homeless, and now it was happening in my own hometown. I never would have thought that anything like this could happen. No one was prepared. No one was ready for this disaster.
There were so many others in my town who were hit harder than we were. Many of the cars exploded and caused houses to burn. But, we will rebuild and we will be stronger than ever. This new “normal” though is very trying. It’s hard to see army trucks and police vehicles throughout town. It’s difficult to see food banks scattered around. It’s hard to take a hand out. But I know that with each passing day, our town will come back and normalcy will return.