Saturday, February 9, 2013


Here is a post I wrote on November 21 but never published. Each day I mean to do a post, but it's just too hard. I want to recount the whole experience. I want to tell of my trials and tribulations with FEMA. I want people to know. All I do is think about the storm. And all we seem to do is tell people what we've been through in the past three months. All we do is live it every day. But writing about it is a different thing. So here goes.

it's been three weeks since the hurricane. bryan is trying to sleep; derrick and pamela are taking a well-deserved break from the two of us. internet has been off, then on, then off, now back on again. phone service has been spotty.

today was the day we finished clearing our stuff out of the apartment. the landlord had been telling us that he wanted to start the renovation a.s.a.p. getting the cleanup done was nothing we could rush. we worked 25 days straight, adding various logistical tasks and wading through bureaucratic nonsense. the first few days, piles of friends of ours and our hosts showed up to fill contractor bags full of wet, drywall-covered personal possessions, discard ruined furniture, mop muddy floors, sift through mud for treasures, wash things off, and do loads and loads of laundry. they were kind and showed moral support. some were close friends, many of them I had never met before. friends of d's drove down from boston and helped us out, then went to other areas of the city to to see how else they could help. friends of mine, after helping us, volunteered through red hook initiative, a community organization that normally serves teens from the Red Hook Houses. RHI became an early triage center, accepting donations and volunteers so that the neighborhood could be served hot meals, given water and flashlights, be seen by a doctor and have any kind of question answered. as the number of people both needing and offering help increased, recovery centers spread throughout the neighborhood. carolina of portside new york turned 351 van brunt (our former store) into an information and meeting center. the sidewalk in front of the restaurant fort defiance was where volunteers came to get their assignments. visitation and good shepherd churches gave out packaged food, cleaning supplies and clothing.

on october 29 I packed my pink book bag thinking we'd be staying at d&p's two nights at the most. I brought a couple of changes of underwear and socks, something to sleep in, a toothbrush, my laptop, my two cameras and my passport. I remembered the battery charger for my pocket camera, but left my phone charger at home. b gave me a wind-up flashlight. I wore pink jeans, a lightweight sweatshirt, a cardigan, rain jacket and converse. I carried my rain boots with me.

at 1:00 a.m., after the worst of the storm had passed, bryan, derrick and I took a walk to the apartment to see how the place had fared. I took my book bag with me, hoping to sleep at home that night. a block from our place we faced a downed willow tree, crushing the chain link fence beneath it and spilling out halfway across van brunt street. I got a sinking feeling when we passed the cafe home/made's side yard, where all of the furniture and items that had been stowed there were tossed about like they were nothing. we approached the house where we had been renting the bottom floor, then stopped and stared. the stairwell leading down into the apartment was filled to the sidewalk with water. seeing that one of the front windows was cracked, I knew that the apartment was filled with water as well. we looked at it for a moment and left.

we have been staying for three weeks at d&p's pad. their fourth-floor apartment is on one of red hook's few dry blocks. elevation increases as small as a few feet created dry spots in an otherwise flooded neighborhood. power was restored here within a few days, hot water came within a week, as well as heat. as I write this Con Ed has restored power to most of the neighborhood, requiring at first that electricians sign off on each building, then relaxing their rules. for weeks street and traffic lights were out. The Red Hook Houses had no power, heat or hot water. the 76th precinct patrolled and stationed itself at key points. they shone bright lights on high towers to prevent looting and muggings. the storm surge had blown our back door open, breaking the deadbolt off the door frame. our back yard became filled with the objects of our lives as they were pulled out of the wet wreckage. I was grateful to the 76th for keeping an eye on our things.

there is so much more to talk about but I will leave it here for now.

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