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.


Melissa Maxwell Moore said...

I am so, so sorry. We live in the area that was devastated by tornadoes last year, and I understand the feeling of looking around in shock and disbelief, spending long hours trying to help with clean up, and staying up all night to cook food to hand out with hot coffee. I wish there was a way we could help you. Please know we will hold you and your family in our prayers.

Allie and Pattie said...

Our prayers are with your family. My inlaws live on 130th in Rockaway- the street that burned. It's a war zone. We are heartsick, but grateful for them being safe- things can be replaced. I am so very sorry you suffered the worst kind of loss- that of your loved ones.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

My heart aches for your family and all those who have suffered losses during this hurricane. It's heartwarming though, to see how you and others have pitched in to help them get back on their feet. I know it will be a long time until things get back to "normal." I delivered bags of supplies to a local store that was taking things to Staten Island, but if you know of more places where people can donate, or help in other ways, please post them on your blog or on your facebook page. I just love the story about Uncle Dominic making room for everyone. What a wonderful family you have.

massimo said...

So sorry, so sorry for you guys! We really wish we could be there to help. A huge hug from the other side of the water.
Massimo, Biancamaria and Delfina

Clarke Canfield said...

Wow! I'm sorry your family members have been among the victims of the storm. I feel like I'm in a war zone reading your blog and viewing the photos. May God watch over everybody during this difficult time.

Claudia said...

Bless all the angels.

Fred said...

I'm here on Long Island in better shape than most. If there is anything I can do, please let me know. No gas to travel, but I have heat, power and communication.

Osprey Cove said...

Mister M,
Your description of the family, in good times and in tragic events, comes through with the effect of a dagger, straight to the heart, it makes one feel like one is sitting with there with your Aunts, Uncles, and other family members feeling the love.

Proud Italian Cook said...

There are no words, I'm just so sorry for you and your family! A true testament of the man you are,stocking your car to the brim and to be there ready to pitch in for your family. Thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Anonymous said...

I have read and re-read your blog, it broke my heart I had to stop and read and re-read, crying. our only child lives in brooklyn, God spared her from no heat, no electric and she volunteered on her birthday this past sunday..She goes to work and cooks food when she gets home and goes to get it up apts. and walks up those stairs and delivers to elderly who cannot get to anything, she said she must do this, many don't have anyone outlived their familias (families)! She said the devastation on staten island, where you mention is so terrible indeed, so sorry for the loss of your family members, one can always replace a thing, not a family member at all..God's blessings to you and your familia in this time of hell is what I call it..Voted last week all by mail in our state, we send our prayers I read your column daily, you are the best italian chef in all of this USA, may the good Lord keep you and yours safe and maybe just maybe your family will get some power and other necessities soon, gasoline being a top priority..caio, mjs from the west coast!!!!!!X()

massimo said...

Oh Man! When I first read this, I couldn't write anything. I couldn't find any words which I thought would fit.
But I'm there we you, WE are there with you, our dear friend. I don't know, but it really feels like Sandy has hit our family as well. How much do we wish we could be there!
all our love,
Massimo, Biancamaria and Delfina

Jean said...

You and your family are in my prayers, along the many who have suffered horrendous losses. It warms my heart to see people like you doing whatever they can to help.

God bless.

Shyster Jersey Lawyer Friend said...

Heart-wrenching! I’m so glad that there were angels in the wreckage. Know that you were one of them.

jerseypaulie said...

I know to well of the devastation. Here in jersey our beaches were severely hit. We are lucky in North Jersey to have power restored after 3 days. Many of our friends and family are still out. The cold nights are the worst with no heat. My heart breaks when i see the families in Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens that were in the cross hairs. So many good stories too, of people driving trucks of food, water and clothes from the Carolinas and further.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your relative, that is a real loss. The rest, I keep telling myself,is just "stuff"---we had over 3 feet of water in our entire first floor on long island. Never had water near our house past 35 years. Hope we have power for Christmas.

AdriBarr said...

I am so sorry to hear of your family's losses. I wish you all the best for a speedy recovery. We out here on the west coast are keeping you all in our hearts.

Ishkabibble said...

Just catching up on reading the blog. So sad. Agree that the story of Uncle Dom making room is very touching.