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Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy & Rockaway Beach

I lived here once before. Near 116th Beach Street to be exact. I remember thinking how cool it was that I could take 10 steps left from the building entrance door before feeling the soft, warm sand under my feet. During Spring semester (while I was still in college) when the weather was warm outside, I found pleasure in grabbing a beach towel and my spiral notebook and lie down on the sand with the sun beating on my face, studying math problems or reading from a textbook for an upcoming test. I took pleasure in this little bubble of peace in Rockaway beach. Compared to the rest of New York City, Rockaway felt like a separate town...a separate vibe. Everyone was cool and relax, not crowded. The elders walked their dogs on the boardwalk and on the beach, younger people were jogging on that same boardwalk or pushing their infant in a stroller along the boardwalk and the surfers were out in groups trying to catch a wave. It was nice.

 However, little did I know this would be a short-lived experience due to a hurricane that would flip my life upside down. I didn't know it at the time, but my life was about to change, for the worst. I turned on my television one morning and heard a news reporter from channel Pix11 mention, that a major hurricane was heading towards New York City. Residents were told to board up their windows and secure their property to mitigate possible damages. Residents near Rockaway & Far Rockaway (located in Queens & Brooklyn boroughs) was told to evacuate the area if possible. "Hurricane Sandy" is what The World Meteorological Organization named it. I had to Google that information because like many, I didn't know who named hurricanes either. I imagined it was some "randos" who threw darts at a board filled filled with names. I mean really, what is the -process? I also thought the name "Hurricane Sandy" was a little ironic, me being next to the beach and all. Anyways because of the close proximity my place was to Rockaway Beach, evacuation zone "A". Residents in my neighborhood were advised to leave the area. Many residents, including myself...chose to stay.

Hurricane Sandy: Evacuation Zone "A"

Hurricane Sandy at Rockaway Beach

Hurricane Sandy at Rockaway Beach in Queens, NY

Just like a surfer on a normal day at Rockaway Beach, we decided to ride out the wave of Hurricane Sandy. We decided we were not going to seek shelter elsewhere, but stay in our homes, secure and board up as much as we possibly can. Maybe it wasn't a smart idea, but it sure as hell felt like it at the time. I do not have much recollection of the actual storm of Hurricane Sandy to be truthful. I remembered being just a little bit nervous. I was thinking to myself this Hurricane may not be all that it's hyped up to be, after all I was storm chasing Hurricane Irene (another Hurricane that hit NYC) in Brooklyn and it was not that much of a big deal as the reporters made it seem. So I was optimistic and forcing myself into thinking it wasn't going to be that bad. As an extra precaution, just in case some pointy object flew straight through the window killing me instantly, I partially slept inside my walk-in closet. The hurricane took place late at night. I had slept through most of it but was constantly awoken by the loud banging noise of objects hitting the side of the house. At around 7:00 a.m. I woke up thinking to myself that wasn't so bad. Once again the media had over-exaggerated about the storm. Then I walked outside...


Hurricane Sandy Aftermath

Cars rest ontop of each other after Hurricane Sandy aftermath.

Cars rest ontop of each other after Hurricane Sandy aftermath.

After hearing the loud noises of the storm, and feeling the walls shake slightly, Hurricane Sandy went as fast as it had came. However, more damage was done than I imagined. One of the first things I noticed as I stepped outside my place, was the amount of mud all over the sidewalk and road. I mean there was mud all over the place. I remembered thinking how my neighborhood looked as if a bomb just went off outside. As i was processing the damage Hurricane Sandy had left, I discovered a large portion of my house, the bottom foundation was missing. There was also significant damage on the side of the house of the first floor. This made the entire house inhabitable and I would soon shortly have to move elsewhere. I knew this before the NYPD actually placed yellow caution tape around my place and several others of the neighbors. I continued to walk further outside of my own community. A gas station caught on fire and exploded, cars were flipped upside down ontop of other cars and a boat made its way into the middle of the city streets. I saw windows of convenient stores shattered to pieces, metal poles bent blocking the side walk and more cars resting ontop of each other and destroyed.

Cars destroyed Hurricane Sandy, Rockaway beachFAR ROCKAWAY, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 4, 2012: Destroyed luxury car in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Far Rockaway, New York. Image taken 5 days after Superstorm Sandy hit New York 

I decided to walk back home. I turned on the television to see how the rest of New York City was affected by the storm. There wasn't any evidence that other boroughs were affected as much as we were, those living near Rockaway beach & far Rockaway...evacuation zone "A". As I stated I was forced to leave my home due to it becoming inhabitable because a significant portion of the foundation was missing and the house could collapse at anytime. Not wanting to inconvenience friends or family I was temporarily placed in shelter setup at a high school somewhere in Queens, NY.

It was basically a bunch of camping cots setup in the high school gym. I basically packed with me all important things I could carry in my back pack. I packed my laptop, socks, a few pair of pants and shirts, boxer shorts and items to take care of my personal hygiene (soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, disposable razors etc). Because I was still in college, I also carried my college textbooks with me. As I scoped around the high school gymnasium I saw a lot of older people and families. I was stationed here for a few days. I was optimistic about my situation because for one, I had a job, I was attending school and I was involved in a work-study program. Over the course of the two to three days I pretty much laid on my cot studying or watching old black and white films on my laptop when I wasn't working. "Some Like It Hot" featuring Marilyn Monroe was one of my favorite films to watch. I've been told a long time ago that I'm living "before my time" or that I'm "young with an old soul". Occasionally I would just walk about this unfamiliar area of Queens exploring different streets and whatnot. Of course I was also looking for a new place to live, but one can only respond to so many Craiglslist listings in a day.

A FEMA agent came in one day with a bunch of items such as a pack of socks, hygiene items and bags of sandwiches. I was grateful for their help but that wasn't the case with everyone. I remember this one guy got upset because FEMA ran out of white socks and only had black socks left. He sort of snatched the socks and rolled his eyes as he walked away mumbling how he wanted white socks. I sort of shook my head thinking "You're getting these items for free! Be grateful!" A Red Cross representative was also there to take down some information probably for record keeping. He made an innocent joke about my name, which I have heard from everyone before, and then he was gone. I was then transferred to Queens College where camping cots were also set up. It was much better than staying at the high school and much larger. The National Guards were at this facility and among other assistance, they provided us with bottled water and MREs (Meals Ready to Eat).

Hurricane Sandy National GuardsMREs, Hotel Inn & The Deans List

MRE were these packaged meals that has long shelf life and were typically eating by soldiers of the US military. Eating one of these meals was interesting to me. The package usually included a napkin, salt & pepper, drink mix, chewing gum, spoon & fork, peanut butter & crackers, the main course and this weird heating mechanism package. The heating mechanism was the most interesting to me. I would basically have to pour water into a pouch with another pouch that had some substance in it. The water would boil in this pouch and I would have to place the unopened main course meal package ontop of it to heat or cook the meal. It worked wonderfully. The main course meal was very hot, not just luke warm.

MRE For Hurricane Sandy Victims

MRE meals were given to Hurricane Sandy victims that lost their homes.

I recall how rude some of the school staff members were (not the professors, students or faculty members but other workers of the college) when some of us left Queens College. They treated us as if we were the scum of the earth because we had no home, not caring that some of us were actively in college US veterans and other productive members of society trying to better ourselves. In a city so diverse like New York we're expected to have a few idiots. So I pushed that thought to the back of my mind, but I would never forget it. I was transferred into a Holiday Inn hotel in Midtown Manhattan on 585 8th Avenue. I believed FEMA and Red Cross sort of placed us into categories of who were most likely to get back on their feet. While I and a few others were transferred to nice hotels, others were sent somewhere shitty. This was a discussion some of us had when being transferred.

My time at the Holiday Inn went by fast and peaceful. After staying there for a few weeks I managed to find another student to room share with and move out of the hotel. Sporadically NYPD would allow me to get some of my stuff from my old place but I had to be quick about it. Besides losing a few items during Hurricane Sandy, new clothes, some valuables etc my life returned to the normality I was used to...minus the easy access of Rockaway beach which I missed so much. I finished my semester making honors and being placed on the Deans List. I was so proud of myself and so were the faculty of my school. I was suppose to attend a ceremony where I had to wear a suit (yuck) and give a speech about academic excellence but I decided to skip it.

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