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Journey After a Hurricane

From October 22 to November 2 of 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of the United States in catastrophic and destructive ways. Sandy hit New York October 29, 2012 leaving homes destroyed and the metropolitan area in shock. One of the neighborhoods that had severe damages was Breezy Point. Breezy Point is a beach town in Queens, it’s a tiny peninsula with a large community filled with heart and love. When the storm hit breezy, electrical fires were caused burning down hundreds of homes, the bodies of ocean that surround this small community engulfed the peninsula. As a consequence, nearly every home was affected and needed re-building. One of the homes effected, belonged to Owens’ family. The daughter, Victoria, was there the night Sandy made land fall and witnessed the wrath of the hurricane firsthand. I interviewed Victoria, aka Vickie, about the hurricane and how life was after it.

Vickie is a great friend of mine; I consider her family. She was my sister’s best friend before, during and after Sandy. After Sandy hit her community, her house was incredibly damaged. This is where our friendship began. After sandy hit, Vickie lived with my family and I for seven months. When I Asked Vickie “What was your experience with Hurricane Sandy?”  she told me “Hurricane Sandy hit New York when I was in my senior year of high school. I live in the Rockaways right on the Atlantic Ocean and my house and community were destroyed. We got 6 feet of water on the first floor of our house and our foundation cracked. Our town had no water or electricity for 3 months. My house was completely unlivable for six months. My parents had to figure out what we were going to do with our severely damaged house while figuring out a place to stay, all while I finished high school and applied to college. It took us 4 years to rebuild our house and move back completely.”

Image result for breezy point after hurricane sandy
Breezy Point after Hurricane Sandy.

I saw her experience behind her displacement, and I witnessed her journey of returning back home. Most people think of a natural disaster and think about what the storm was like during its land fall. However, after living with her I realized the real disaster was the aftereffects, the unknowns of what will happen to her community and to her home. I wanted to unravel her recovery and what she learned from the experience.

I asked her “How did you feel after Sandy?” she told me, “Post Sandy I think we were all grateful to have gotten through it and scared to think about the future and what would happen with our house and community.”

I followed this idea of Post Sandy by asking “What did you learn from Sandy?”, with her head held high, she responded “I learned a lot from Sandy. I learned how lucky I am and to never take anything for granted. I learned the impact a natural disaster can have on people, communities, and cities. I learned how risky it is to own a house in a coastal flood zone. I learned how generous and caring people can be. I learned how tough and resilient people are. Sandy taught me a lot of life lesson.” It was remarkable to me after all the pain she had to endure, she still saw light from such a traumatic experience.

Part of Vickie’s recovery and journey back home had to do with the actual building of her home.

A huge part of her homes rebuilding was the aid she received from the government: “The government helped immensely. The federal government and the city government both provided funds and services to the hardest hit communities. The city backed program Build it Back helped to rebuild our house a few years after. The government was understanding and provided tax breaks and other help while people got back on their feet. “

At the end of our conversation she told me something positive that came from the storm, she said “The positives were that it taught everyone to be prepared and always be thankful for the things and people you have around you. I learned that for a future disaster I would have a plan. Listen to officials when they tell you to evacuate. Be ready for the unexpected. Pack up anything valuable. Stay together with family. “

She ended our interview telling me that “With all the money in the world I would definitely travel a lot, but I would always call home a house on the beach in Breezy Point.”

After this conversation with Vickie I realized some similarities and differences about Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Sandy. Both caused significant damages, some in places worse than others. Thousands of homes were lost and unlivable in. Displacement was a common and tragic theme to both Hurricane survivors.  Unfortunately, government aid was not as permissible to Maria survivors as they were to Sandy survivors.

It’s been seven years after Sandy and Breezy has improved but not to its best. During the chaos of the storm home owners banded together to fight Sandy. After the storm they banded together and rebuilt.They have come up with a future plan of attack to prevent catastrophic destruction such as Hurricane Sandy. The community is still growing together.The community raised money  to build a dune that would prevent flooding from a future storm surge. This article was written five years ago, explaining how they banded together and plan to continue to grow as a community. When I reached out to Vickie recently, I asked her how Breezy was doing. She told me that the community is still rebuilding and taking each day by day. 

However, the most amazing and meaningful impact to me was that the survivors always seemed to keep their heads held high with hope towards the future. They always stayed strong not just for themselves, but for their family.


6 Comments

  1. This piece was emotional and it’s really nice that the government was helpful in the recovery process, unlike those in need post-hurricane Maria. I loved how Victoria ended the interview, “With all the money in the world I would definitely travel a lot, but I would always call home a house on the beach in Breezy Point.” Beautiful piece.

  2. I love the strength she have, I think she was very strong being able to explain both before and after the disaster. one part I like the most is when she said that ” I learned how lucky I am and to never take anything for granted ” this part show that we should be grateful with what we have. Knowing that people have been in situation that you experience make you realize thing that you neglect before. It is also interesting that she relied Sandy with Maria. this is a great interview.

  3. It is surprising to find out that so many homes were destroyed and damaged during hurricane Sandy. My interview was on a hurricane Sandy survivor and his home and especially his friends homes were damaged. The first picture you put up really shows the devastations of Hurricane Sandy. It is hard to believe homes use to stand in that location. I think the best idea for everyone living near the coast would be to move because storms are only going to get more frequent and stronger.

  4. I thought that the strength Vickie displayed through this interview was amazing. You were still able to highlight the devastation that occurred, but yet made it incredibly uplighting and inspiring, especially at the end of the piece. The media in this is shocking as well, because I never understood the destruction that Sandy really caused.

  5. This piece felt just like a conversation with a friend recalling a moment, especially because you were able to experience part of what happened to Vickie in Hurricane sandy. This was an interesting piece to read because it tells you it can happen to anyone. In this situation it is refreshing to see the government actually stepped up!

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