A New Appreciation, Some Old Grudges


I don’t actually remember the storm but my earliest recollection of any serious weather was Hurricane Gloria. I was a toddler at the time, and I had no comprehension of what a storm meant. At 9 years of age, I woke up to the streets of Broad Channel flooded and was expected to make it to school. Amazingly, it was still open despite the major flooding. Through my teens and twenties, our area was left relatively unscathed by the wrath of Mother Nature and its capabilities. And though Irene did significant damage to some homes, and popped a few 2X4’s off the boards, it was all a setup for what would come a year later.
I think anyone my age can relate…Hurricanes were something that occurred ONLY in the South, far away from our beautifully "protected" beaches and neighborhood. In retrospect, I consider my attitude as cocky, even arrogant towards weather systems. I point to a “Lieutenant Dan” style confidence aboard shrimpin’ boat Jenny, “You call this a storm!” as a measure of my self-assurance. How wrong I was.
I was a lifeguard for a number of years. My days on the beach consisted of: what’s for breakfast, definitely not drilling, ‘dollar bill through the boards’ prank, and where we were going after work. But on those down times on the chair, the rainy days, when my eyes weren’t peeled to our customers, I often thought about what I would do if a tidal wave were to hit Rockaway. Again, it could and would never happen here, right Mom and Dad? Wrong, Beefchip, you are wrong!
When I get asked about my experience of Hurricane Sandy and what I saw, the only way I know how to relate it is to a terrifying three-hour tsunami. As the night progressed and the peninsula went dark, it only got worse. Though most video surveillance of the height of the storm proved to be of little use, I doubt anyone that experienced it will be able to erase the destruction from their memories.
I remember thinking a few things as I walked onto an eerily desolate sand-filled Shore Front at 4 a.m. I didn't know how many, but I thought about those people who lost their lives that night. I thought about everyone I loved, my family and friends who stayed, and most of all about my 87-year-old stubborn grandfather. After a few attempts to lure him to my Hurricane Party, he stoically rebuffed our offer of endless Jameson whiskey and rode out the storm in three feet of cold water. Amazingly, he survived the night.
I experienced those emotions, and put them quickly aside. There was work that needed to get done, and we had to organize. If there is one thing that Rockaway and Broad Channel are known for, is our unity in tragedy and in triumph.
For as much sadness and despair we were experiencing, the greatest acts of kindness and compassion were on full display. Namely on Day One, the "BCPD" went door to door checking on their neighbors. "Team Delta" similarly assisted in Rockaway. Though I could afford a skipped meal, my first one came by way of the Sikh community in Forest Hills. They set up shop on Cross Bay serving curry and rice. Team Rubicon came in with guns blazing, not to be outdone by the army of Mormon Helping Hands. Tzu Chi came in with some monetary love, hugs and warmth. We needed it all.
Sandy brought out the absolute best in most, but I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the absolute worst of a few. I congratulate you MTA and Governor Cuomo, the toll was the first business open, and business was booming. While bodies were still being recovered, your assets were more concerned with collections.
I'd like to think a few choice words from Yours Truly to Bloomberg as I wiggled my way through the Channel on Sandy +3 days had something to do with temporary relief a few days after, but I am doubtful an angry attack by Beefchip was a deciding factor.
I'm looking at you Red Cross. You were collecting funds on national television within 24 hours of the tide receding, but it feels like we're still waiting for you.
And I'm looking at every low life looter that graced us with their unwelcome presence. I never understood how a pair of Air Jordans could satisfy my appetite, but maybe with salt it has some taste to it. May God have mercy on your sinful souls.
There has been a lot of progress in the last five years, but there is a long road ahead in the fight for sound storm protection. I look forward to living out the rest of my days in "Zone A, Stayin and Prayin" with the rest of the chosen few. Just kidding, I'm evacuating for the next thunderstorm!

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