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Cry From The Battlefield

Just as they say on Public Radio, the following has some swear words and if you prefer the cleaner version… you’re out of luck. This is an email I sent out on November 2, 2012:

 To friends who have been wondering…

Rockaway hasn’t been in the news much– we’ve actually seen zero news teams (and, more unfortunately, FEMA and Red Cross haven’t been seen at all either).

There is no power and won’t be for some time. Some guesses are two weeks (bearable) to two months (not bearable as winter rolls in). Rumors fly about looting, buildings being condemned (large apartment buildings), Breezy Point people being told to leave within 48 hours (and because they have cesspools, there is conjecture that it will be a very, very long time (if ever) before that community is allowed to come back. Things like that are hard to substantiate for a few reasons. We have little or no cell service and most people are so busy with their own houses and circumstances, no one has the time to check on anyone past their own block.

The water in my basement reached 7 feet— and I have the pix to prove it—destroying my son’s bedroom and the contents of the living space. Of course, the hot water heater, electric panel, and washer and dryer were casualties as well.

Unfortunately, I used oil to heat the house and the massive tank sprang a leak so I got oil and water together (the old saying about water and oil don’t mix—what the fuck does that mean? —they mixed to wreak more havoc). TVs, treadmill, computers, X-box — all that kinda crap—sayonara. I had an old desk—I’d call it antique (not that I know what antique is), a massive thing that filled could not be lifted by two men for more than a couple of inches. I found it floating near the ceiling. Unreal. A sofa still rests on top of the treadmill (I know, I know, some friends will say that’s just how I set up my treadmills, with a sofa hiding it).

After a day or so, the water subsided and settled at about 3-4 feet. A neighbor lent me a pump (and this very generous guy made the pump available to anyone on the block). Son Brian (who has made me very proud through his efforts) and I pumped out the water and got it down to about 6 inches — not great but at least it was a start. But it wasn’t. The water table, the saturated earth, made sure it looked like we never did a thing. We pumped three times, but the water came back and settled at about 15 inches. We had a professional team come in last night and they pumped to the point there was probably just an inch of standing water —I’ll be heading back to the house in a few minutes hoping the tides and water table give us a break. While they were pumping, I was able to wade through oily water to find a tiny split in the oil tank. It probably needs to be soldered but the best I could do was wrap it in duct tape and a t-shirt. We’ll see how my Rube Goldberg plumbing skills hold up…

We slept in the house (we includes my 81 year old mother who was perfectly content to stay and ride out whatever came our way) for a couple of nights but the smell of oil was really too strong to continue past those couple of nights. (We laughed about how our few hours of rest included sucking in noxious fumes. We survived the flood but got coal miner’s lung). We split up last night (going to various family homes off Rockaway) and got our first night’s sleep off the Exxon Valdez. I’m in Staten Island and have internet (yippee) so I can give you all this update. I’m heading back in a few minutes hoping things are where we left them. Not worse.

Getting gas is an issue all over but in Rockaway there’s a deeper need because so many people need generators to pump water. We hope as power comes on in more places like Long Island and parts of Brooklyn, the gas needs and worries subside.

Seems to me, the most pressing need right now is for us to find a place to live for the coming months. A lot of people from Breezy and Rockaway will be looking and it’s likely we’ll have few options. Anyone have any leads?

The above is my personal saga but I SWEAR we do feel fortunate. People have lost their entire homes to waves and fire. The block of 130th Street is sad beyond words. This location is right near where the plane crash happened in 2001 — the scene now with so many homes burned to the ground is MUCH worse than then. On another street, a mother of kids known to my son — was killed by a shard of glass. Imagine having to deal with a mother’s death while trying to…well, survive.

Others have suffered so much worse, so I hope email doesn’t have an ounce of whine in it. There’s no whining allowed in our house– this is just an email with some news.

A couple of pictures are attached that don’t come close to the experience of seeing them with your own eyes, but they give some indication of what this storm did.

Okay, I guess that’s it for now — there’s shit to be done. And just to cheer everybody up — I see no light at the end of this tunnel.  :).

Oh, and one last thing– don’t tell me to stay strong or anything like that– that’ll just make me curse. See, I just gave myself a smirk that I needed–so this email was worth it.

I almost forgot–F’n Bloomberg and his marathon. You think THAT’s where we should deploy cops? What a fuckin outrage. We could use the cops, believe me–and garbage trucks and open roads (Because of the marathon, I won’t be able to stay in Staten Island on Saturday night because I won’t be able to get back to Rockaway). I can’t wait to find out the winning time.

Postscript: Later that day, Bloomberg cancelled the NYC Marathon because, well, because people screamed loud enough. And as a result of this email, a friend helped us get an apartment in Brooklyn. Other friends helped in numerous ways. Family members went above and beyond–all material for another column or a whole book. Looking back, I guess one of the many lessons from Hurricane Sandy: if you need help, it’s ok to ask. People come through.

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