As a resident of Long Beach I personally felt the effects of Hurricane Sandy. The lower portion of my home, including basic living utilities were left in five feet of flood and sewage. Everything that was touched by water needed to be thrown to the curb immediately due to the fear of contamination. We threw away big items, our walls, gas burner, couches, TV, toys and much more. After we hauled out big stuff we were left with “little stuff”. The doll my sister gave to me when I was ten and she had moved to Texas, our wedding and engagement pictures, our children’s foot prints from the hospital, even the framed photo of our first “Make a Wish Polar Bear Plunge” that had hung on the wall for years. Dragging those items, which were left, covered in sewage, sand and water hurt me in a way I will not forget, the loss of “little stuff”was a loss that hurt deep down . I found that I was losing other things as well, my patience, my temper, my control, my gratefulness.
There is a twist in this story, because this letter not about what I lost. You see as we were removing forty years of memories, our driveway began to fill with cars, words were not even spoken as my husband’s friend Phil gave us a hug, put on gloves and walked down to the basement and began hauling stuff out. My sister and her friends all began showing up, brooms, pails, bottled water. Her husband a NYC firefighter walked into the house after a twenty four hour tour and began shoveling sand that was once on the beach and was now a wet contaminated hill in our basement. Neighbors who had not spoken in months, sometimes years were respectfully helping carry each other’s contents to the curb. As we cleaned our basement we began to hear tales of people in worse shape than us, the loss of complete houses, the uninsured, the person who was laid off post storm. We all spent the next few days cleaning debris and gutting the houses of neighbors and friends. For my husband it didn’t stop there, when we were done with our friends’ houses he began volunteering to help people he had never met before. I could not have been more proud, to be his wife.
Then Natural Awakenings advertisers who had only known me for four weeks began emailing and calling. Vanessa at Cleansing Concepts and Dr. Richter at Cardiodontal both offering me office space with heat and power to use. Marilyn Chirallo who had never met me offered my family her home. I was overwhelmed witnessing friends and more importantly strangers coming together to help one another. I saw the hope and love of our community not only Long Beach, but our entire Long Island community.
I lost some stuff, but I gained this insight: We are New Yorkers, we are Long Islanders, and together with love we can rebuild. We do not need to be reminded of much greater horrors that we have faced and beaten before. Together we will support our local businesses and they will support us and we will build back better than before because we will be just a little bit closer to one another than we had been prior to “Sandy”.
I am not the same, I have seen a city I love turned into a pile of debris, and at the same time I have witnessed a community come together to help, and support each other. I am a better person for having been part of that. Perhaps I lost “stuff” but what I gained no flood or hurricane can ever take from me. It is fitting that this month’s feature article on page 26 is “The Power of We”. How truly blessed I feel to have had the opportunity to experience that “power of WE” first hand.
Kelly Martinsen, Publisher