Hurricane Sandy: Lives
Changed in a Single Night
Catholic Home and
Garden Almost Completely Destroyed
|We lived on a little barrier beach island off the Atlantic
Ocean called Long Beach, NY. It was a quaint little city built on a
sandbar. For the most part, everyone knew everyone, if not by name, then
by face. It was a city known for it’s beautiful beaches, long boardwalk,
and excellent fishing. It is only 7/10 of a mile wide at the widest point.
In its early days most of the island was built with little summer
cottages. As time went on, larger homes were built and condos sprang up
along the shoreline for the well-to-do. We lived in one of the first
cottages built in 1922. It was not a grand or fancy home, but it was our
home — and home to Catholic Home and Garden.
When you live by the sea, you are always aware of hurricanes and
nor’easters. In fact, we bought our home after experiencing a flood 20
years ago in a rented home. Our landladies were not exceptionally
responsive and I said to my husband, “That’s it. We’re buying a house. I
don’t know how, but we’re buying a house.” And that’s what we did.
Prudently we also bought flood insurance.
|Last year Hurricane Irene blew through. We boarded the
windows and we evacuated to my sister’s house. Most of our neighbors
stayed because that’s what you do when you live in Long Beach. You stick
it out. At my sister’s we watched the lifeguard shack come off its pilings
and float into the boardwalk. We were alarmed because the ocean breach
that carried it came down our boulevard – one house away from ours.
We called neighbors and they said all was well. So we came home. The
house next door was flooded, the houses across the street were flooded,
but our little house was fine. We didn’t even lose power.
So when we heard about Sandy, we decided to stay. How bad could it be?
We soon found out.
|My husband boarded up the windows, just like he did for
Irene. This time we added peep holes on the top floor. My son and two
friends came to stay with us. We brought food and water upstairs,
including supplies for our two dogs. We had comfort foods to calm the
nerves and crank radios — as well as one from my friend Miles Stair at
the Wick Shop.
The oil lamps were ready, flashlights were on hand. We were set. I decided
to cook a roast beef so we would have something to eat even if the lights
went out. I was checking on the roast when I heard a strange gurgling
noise. I looked down and saw water coming up through the floor – and
screamed for everyone to grab what they could and run upstairs. My husband
had the foresight to shut off the electrical breakers.
|That night was one of the most frightening we’ve ever
experienced. Although it was dark out, through our peep hole we saw the
ocean raging up the street. Eventually it was too dark to see anything and
frankly, I was glad. I think I might have died of fright if I had seen it
all. (There is a chilling video
here of the
ocean coming through some blocks away)
At some point I took a flashlight and shown it down the stairs to see
how far up the water was coming. The spot where the beam fell illuminated
a print of Jesus The Divine Mercy floating and facing me directly. I knew
then that we would be alright. But more on that image of the Lord later
At the right you can see that print in the corner at the bottom of our
stairs in the doorway to my office. Since then I’ve carried it with me,
cleaned it off and it is now framed in our bedroom.
|In the morning, it was difficult to comprehend what our
eyes were seeing. The house was a complete mess with sewage and mud and
broken furniture everywhere. The bits and pieces of our lives were strewn
and muddied beyond recovery. A walk outside around our home and community
was simply mind boggling. There were bits and pieces of people’s lives
strewn everywhere. You couldn’t quite comprehend what you were looking at.
There was something odd in my driveway and it wasn’t for several days
when my son identified it as piece of a restaurant located a 1/4 mile
There was an emergency lane post on the front lawn that came in from
In short, our town looked like Armageddon had come and gone. My husband
and I were Red Cross volunteers and had gone to Louisiana but this was
nothing in comparison.
As we walked around the neighborhood I saw one of my planter boxes from
the raised garden beds three blocks away. I asked my son to bring it
back. It was silly, but I wanted a tiny piece of “normal”.
Little did I know that things would never be normal again.
|I could fill pages with what occurred in those next
several days – and eventually I will. No help arrived until the early
morning of the 5th day. That was when the National Guard brought in
Porto-sans for every block in our community. No more using buckets.
It was cold. It was dark. Everything smelled awful. We were under
curfew from 6 am to 6 pm. Military vehicles and men and women with assault
rifles were everywhere. Eventually we started to get sick. We were lucky.
We had a car. Almost everyone’s car in our neighborhood was either
flooded, buried in sand or went on fire – setting homes on fire as the
wind blew the flames under the eaves.
|We left for my sister’s house, 70 miles away.
Unfortunately my husband had to come to work in the city, often working 2
and 3 shifts in a row to help get things working again. And, there was no
gas, so back we went to the cold, dark, stinking house. With two dogs in
During the course of things we had piled up some boxes to salvage a few
things. On top of one, standing up right was St. Faustina’s Diary of
the Divine Mercy. I asked my husband if he had placed it there. He
said no. He had no idea where it came from. And, in fact, all our books
were destroyed, but this one was dry.
God is good. All the time. FEMA was offering hotel rooms but they had
all filled up. Through a series of happy coincidences we found an
apartment — and one that allows dogs!
|This is a long story, but to continue towards today,
December 20th, it has been a grueling round of inspectors and adjusters
and lawyers and architects. When the rip out of the walls and floors was
done, it was apparent that our home could not be saved. The ocean cracked
the beams in the ceiling and shoved our poor little cottage off the
Where we are now. We wait. It is doubtful that insurance will cover the
cost of tearing it down and rebuilding. Where we go from here? Only God
knows. But the message of that floating Jesus is clear: Jesus I trust in
The road will be a long and painful one. If you are inclined to help us
pull the pieces together, we would be grateful. And you will help us help
others who are in the same or worse conditions than we are.