I lived in Rockaway.
Last Saturday, I came home from class and photographed all my old illustrations. Put them back in a different spot than usual. Tossed my markers on my bottom bunk, put the 11×14 sketchpads on their shelf. Gloated over the deals I got on fabric for my Halloween costume… Didn’t give the weather a second thought. It was slightly cloudy.
The next day, I skipped Mass to help my mom clean up the backyard and move furniture upside down so it wouldn’t blow away. Then I went to babysit, and helped them do the same.
Monday came. The rain started. My friends and I started a “Hurricane party” on Skype. The water started coming down harder. Mom and I took a walk down to the beach. The waves were twice their normal height and foaming white, cresting multiple times and washing up to the sea wall. Foam sprayed the houses closest to the beach. My rain boots started to leak, so I went home. The rain fell harder and the wind picked up. Sewers began to flood. Water began to pool in the streets, and the ocean passed the wall. Sea level rose. And rose. And rose. Just before we lost power, I saw water in my back yard. A gushing stream, rising quickly. Then the lights flickered, and didn’t turn back on. The water kept rising. Candles were lit. And then the carpet started squishing under my footsteps. Water was coming in from under my back door. The only thoughts I had, honestly, were to get my fabric to higher ground, low-lying boxes of clothes and my leather boots to safety. It bubbled up from cracks between the floorboards long filled with dust. No sooner had the last box of fabric hit the top of my desk when suddenly, the water was up past my ankles. Disgusting, murky black water. While I was saving my fabric, my mom had gotten my little sister and Dad into the attic, and we spent the next ten minutes funneling pillows, blankets, coats, and pants up the narrow, rickety ladder. The water was up to my knees when Mom ordered me up the stairs.
We watched the water rise. Rise, ruining everything it touched. Paper, carpet, books, artwork. It asked not what it touched, only if it was in its way. We slept on the hard floor of the attic, the wind whistling around us, and the water rising.
1AM and I woke up. 3 feet of water stood still along the floorboards.
2AM, there was 6 inches less.
3AM, there was only a half- foot of water.
4AM, it was all out. Out of the house. There was still about 2 feet outside, and the back steps floated away. My mom and I conducted a rescue mission for the chickens… 2 of them had drowned. I wish all the best to General Tso and Marsala, and they will be sorely missed.
The next morning, we went down and saw the extent of the damage. Everything from the waist down was ruined. All my sweaters. Shirts. Boots. My sister’s entire closet. My mom’s entire wardrobe; my Dad’s. All of it. The washer and dryer. Couches. TV, wii, Guitar Hero controllers. My mom’s fabric. All of it. We have nothing now, besides for what we carried in desperate flight upstairs.
But we have it good compared to some people. While no, we can’t live in our house anymore, and no, the cars don’t work, the sewing machines were saved. My dad’s computer was saved. My dresses were high up enough to not be ruined. My family was alive.
Not everyone was so lucky. Wildfires blazed across Breezy Point, decimating over 80 homes with no deaths. The entire 400 block of beach 130th street was razed to the ground, and everything between beach 114th and 116th was burned to the ground. The beachfront properties, worth millions of dollars…gone. Destroyed. Entire porches, walls, rooms, gone. Washed out to sea. Sand, everywhere. Basements and garages, doors forced open…flooded. Cars found blocks away from their parking spots. Fish lying in the streets, and trash everywhere. One woman got swept out to sea and was able to fight her way back to the third floor of her house, another escaped from behind a floating dresser in a flooded basement. Others weren’t so lucky. A woman bled to death after a shard of glass from a blown out window sliced her neck open, and a man drowned in his basement after the water shut him in.
Cell phone service was out. Electric was out. People wandered the streets, looking for their friends. It was surreal. It still is. I’m finding it hard to believe I’m typing this from my grandma’s basement, and that we might be staying here for the next year. The house is inhabitable. There’s mold growing from the standing water and sewage coating everything. We have next to nothing.
Now I’m living in Sheepshead Bay, at my grandma’s overly cluttered house. She’s been a quilter, sewist, knitter, crocheter, chef, patternmaker and an insane amount of other things over her life, and once I finish clearing out spaces for my family and I to live, there are so many opportunities to learn here. Already, I’ve come across a veritable treasure trove of old issues of Sew News, Sew Beautiful, and Threads (all really good sewing magazines). While most of my clothes were destroyed, the generosity of people I hardly know is overwhelming.
Some places that need help still (in NYC) are Rockaway (whole peninsula, from Far Rock to Breezy) and Broad Channel. From experience, the Red Cross isn’t doing much. They need hot food and help getting warm clothes/building supplies/cleaning out their houses. If you want to help, drive down, find someone working in their house, and ask them what they need help with. Every little bit helps.
I honestly can’t wait for Saturday, for class, to put a sense of normalcy back in my life. I need it.
- The street flooded, and the water was coming up to the grass on the front lawn.
- Backyard. The steps to the back porch floated away
- . My room. Everything from the waist down is covered in toxic sewage and seawater.
- The infamous chicken coop. Got knocked off one of its support beams and leaned over during the flood. Thankfully, the side that had the perch built in was the side that got tipped out of the water. Sadly, my two favorite chickens did not make it.
- Alternate view of the back yard
- My Dad’s car. The water was at least over the hood, and it picked up a 4×4 left over from the coop and deposited it.
- My mom inspecting the 5 foot high water line on the side of my house