One Tough Town

Between The Bridges

Five years ago this week on Monday, October 29, 2012, a wicked storm by the name of Sandy was making its way toward landfall, south of us near Brigantine, NJ, just north of Atlantic City. That morning's storm tide at 8:39 a.m. in Broad Channel was similar to that of Hurricane Irene's storm surge of 10 feet, which rolled through our town on a high tide the previous year on the morning of August 28, 2011. Although the morning's tidal flooding receded from the streets of Broad Channel, the level of the water in Jamaica Bay never diminished as it would with a normal low tide, and the bay remained pregnant with rough water throughout the day as we approached that evening's high tide at 8:59 p.m.  As damaging as that morning's tidal flooding was, none of us could shake the feeling that the worst was yet to come. And it was!

At 7:28 p.m. on Monday evening, Broad Channel lost all power as the waters of the bay rose up once again flooding all of Broad Channel, not unlike a slow-moving tsunami, but this time with a twelve-foot storm tide. We didn't realize it at the time, but Broad Channel had been instantly transformed from a vibrant 21st-century community into that of an early 1800’s coastal village, bereft of power, communication, transportation, fuel, sanitation, food, habitable living spaces, churches, and schools.

As the sun rose on the morning of Tuesday, October 30, the residents of Broad Channel slowly emerged from their homes and apartments and surveyed the devastation that surrounded them. Almost without exception, all of our faces were etched with the strain of complete disbelief and shock, eyes staring blankly into the distance, bereft of emotion as if the life had been sucked out them. The realization slowly dawned on all of us that not only had we suffered incredible individual losses, we might have also lost what most of us hold most dear, that which keeps us anchored to this island life of ours we love so much - our town.

Five long years have passed since Sandy devastated our fair town. As terrible as that time was, as we look back now, it becomes clear that, although there are many who are still struggling with the aftermath of the storm and much work still needs to be done, it was only our ability to come together as a community that provided each of us with the hope, strength, and courage to get up and face each day with a singular determination to get back on our feet. It was only by our sharing laughter, tears, frustration, elation, sorrow, hope, food, drink, showers, towels, soap, clothes, tools and much more that we refused to allow despair to gain a foothold within the mindset of our community. 

Today, some 1,826 days later, it is clear that as terrible as Sandy was, the storm was no match for our community of Broad Channel. We are still living and thriving in our little hamlet on Jamaica Bay but now imbued with a strong, post-Sandy, sense of confidence and purpose as well as a healthy optimism for the future. 

Broad Channel, why would anyone want to live anywhere else?

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