The scene in Far Rockaway after superstorm Sandy. Photo by Ira Cohen

Superstorm Sandy
By Sam Sooppersaud
As they say, Life Is Unpredictable! To this I can vouch. At times the things that we fear turn out to be harmless; contrarily, the things that seem harmless are the factors that menace one’s life.

The aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in the Rockaways. Photos by Ira Cohen

During my cricket playing days and as an opening batsman (a very efficient one, I might add) I have faced some fearsome bowlers and bowling. I played cricket at my prime during the time when there were no such things as a cricket helmet. The arm pad, the groin protector, the hip insert, were foreign objects to batsmen during that era. If they existed, then they were beyond my “pocket”. Cricket equipment was very expensive, and the more fortunate who could afford to acquire those accoutrements were reluctant to loan them to a player who did not have them, and understandably so.

So I went in to face some of the most fearsome fast bowlers playing in my First Class Division.  Even some of the guys who weren’t in First Division Cricket were menaces to opening batsmen. The bouncers were flying past your nose or over your head. The body line attack left the openers with a sore rib cage or a bruised breast bone. The “old timers,” the guys who may have played in my time would remember, Mohamed Ali    (Mason) from Blairmont Estate CC, Walter Bovell from Skeldon Estate CC, Pablo Yearwood from Police, Sookraj Beharry (Owl) from Rose Hall Welfare CC,, my brother, Kumkkarran, from Canefield CC. In Case Cup Cricket in Georgetown, there was no shortage in the stable of fearsome pace men to give opening batsmen nightmares. These were the guys I encountered in Guyana, in my playing days.

In New York where I continued playing my cricket, from 1969, there were the ever-present and unsmiling fast men firing the red cherry at you. Most New York area players, or immediate past players, would remember the likes of Ray Winter of Westbury CC, Eric Bynoe of Superstars CC, and playing in the Brooklyn Cricket League (the only fast bowler to have laid me flat on the mat with a shot to the head, hey, I saw a million colors in those brief moments of oblivion). How about Smithy from Cameroon CC, and Keith Cameron of Roraima. I can go on and on naming some of the bowlers, fast bowlers, who have created fear in the minds of opening batsmen, in my era of playing cricket.

I have had a relatively positive experience and accomplishments as an opening batsman despite having to stand at the opposite end of quickies, who at times, took pride in “laying an opener flat on the wicket.” I played in the time of, and against some of the well-known and accomplished cricketers in British Guiana (Guyana): Indal Persaud, Sonny Moonsammy, Leslie Amsterdam, Roy Fredricks, Randolph Ramnarace, and Victor Harnanan.

Let me digress for a moment and relate an incident when at practice with Vic Harnanan. We are both from the Canje District in Berbice. Numerous times Vic and I would meet at the concrete practice pitch at Rose Hall Welfare ground, to bowl and bat. Afterwards, we would go on the grass field to work on fielding and catching and various cricket stretches. On one particular afternoon Vic padded up and took first knock, which he invariably did. At one time I bowled with a decent pace. The sportswriter Shan Razack, once referred to me as a “tear away” fast bowler.  So, Vic took first knock. Now it was my turn to bat. I grabbed a fair of pads and was about to put them on when I heard the question, “What you doing?”  I answered, “I am padding up to bat,” to which Vic raised his hand and waved it from side to side, and said firmly, “No. no, no, you’re batting without pads.”  “But Vic, the ball is going to hurt me,” I said “That is the idea, you move your foot or you would get hurt,” retorted Vic. He then explained to me that as an opener I am lacking in sufficient foot movements. I batted without pads, and boy, did I move my feet!

Now back to the fast men. In as much as I faced these guys, some of the strapping six-footers, no one created more fear in me than a little lady. Her name is SANDY. Like in Hurricane Sandy. I live with my family on the Rockaway Peninsula (Far Rockaway) in Queens, New York. We on the Peninsula, including those on Long Beach Peninsula were the most ravaged by this young lady who visited us on the night of Monday, October 29, 2012 and left, leaving destruction and emotional and physical devastation on millions of victims. Destruction is estimated to be in the billions of dollars. Many lives were lost, mostly through drowning.

A couple of days prior to Sandy’s ruckus, the media kept up with, “The storm, Sandy is heading our way.” Did people in the Rockaways and Long Beach take the “news” seriously?  Did the media relay ENOUGH information to convince the people that Sandy would create the havoc that she did? Most people I spoke to insisted that the media and the authorities “could have done more” to inform the people of the seriousness of the impending storm. But, I am not here to ’play the blame game.”

The aftermath of Sandy is incomprehensible; the amount of fires which destroyed over one hundred houses, the amount of households wiped out, the thousands of cars submerged by the salty waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Jamaica Bay. Drive along Beach Channel Drive in Far Rockaway. The site is mind-boggling. You would see thousands of cars alongside the roadside, water-logged and abandoned.  I myself lost all three of my vehicles to the little lady named SANDY.

(This is the first in a series of articles I intend to publish on Sandy’s Visit to New York).

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