Monday, November 5, 2012
Sandy joins the family
This is not staged. I know that the picture is real because I took it myself a couple of days ago. It is a normal parking sign that is still attached to an upright, regulation-height traffic pole. The pole is sunk into a concrete sidewalk on a quiet working-class street in the town of Long Beach, New York. The misplaced beach sand that nearly covers the sign was deposited last week by the devastating "super storm" known as Sandy.
Many of my family members were affected by the storm. Several were hurt quite badly. Eight haven't been able to occupy their homes since Sandy hit; four of them probably won't ever occupy those homes again. One cousin saw a loved one drown in a first-floor apartment in Howard Beach, Queens, a neighborhood that is some distance from the actual Atlantic shoreline.
My brother and cousins have worked nonstop for more than a week cleaning up after Sandy. I joined them five days ago now, but it appears we have done about all that we can do and so I may be heading back home to Maine in a day or so.
These pictures—this entire post actually—hasn't a thing to do with this blog's focus. But it is all that I have got to report to you this week.
This is the back seat of my car. It and the front passenger seat are filled with groceries that I delivered to relatives in Long Island and Queens last week. In the trunk are coolers packed with milk and eggs and meats and fresh fruits and vegetables, plus three canisters carrying around fifteen gallons of gasoline for those who needed it.
Gasoline continues to be a coveted and extremely hard-to-locate commodity here. More than a week after the storm hit and only the most determined have a chance of landing a few gallons of fuel. If you can find a station that has any.
This I snapped during a much-needed break one afternoon. On the horizon you can see the tankers heading to deliver oil to area refineries. We counted more than a dozen in our field of vision.
Long Beach, home to three of the worst-hit members of our family, remains uninhabitable. Military vehicles patrol the streets day and night; only residents with local I.D. and escorted work crews are allowed in. The place is under curfew. Not a single residence or business has electric power; for days there wasn't even running water. Authorities say that the mountains of sand on the streets and sidewalks is contaminated.
This is the single place in the entire town of Long Beach that is open for business.
You run across this a lot. However, the majority of vehicles in town were totaled from having been under water, not by catching fire.
At the height of the storm several feet of water rushed through these towns, pretty much devastating anything at the basement, ground, and in some cases first floor levels. I have never seen more rubble in my life.
This will be a hard sell. And for a long time.
The rules on this block are written not by the authorities but by those of us who occupy it, if only for a while.
More than once did the angels appear. On this particular late afternoon, after a full day of work and with no food in our bellies, we were visited by this one. She had driven a long way to find a place where she could fill her car with food to hand out to her neighbors and the people who were helping them.
Speaking of angels and doughnuts, Aunt Laura made us some of hers last night. The apartment she lives in, in her daughter Ursula and son-in-law Ben's house, is occupied by several displaced family members, and has been the gathering place where all of us have dinner together each day. Laura's husband, my uncle Dominic, passed recently, which was a big blow to all of us who loved him. His and Laura's granddaughter Jennifer is one of the people living with Laura temporarily, along with her father and mother and two of their cats. She tells me that her grandmother told her that she thinks Dominic may have left in order to make room for all of them. And, knowing Dominic, maybe he did.