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.”
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.