By Sam Sooppersaud
“She wasn’t a nice lady,” remarked Cyril. To this Kenny replied as a matter of fact: “A lady? She isn’t a lady, She’s a b…witch.” Yes, folks, Sandy was not a lady when she visited us on the night of Monday, October 29th. She came into town for a one night stand, and when she scuttled out of town she left behind billions of dollars worth of damage, not to mention the psychological and emotional toll on hundreds of thousands of people.
Thursday, November 22nd was Thanksgiving Day. Traditionally, and secularly, it is a day of feasting. In a religious sense it is a day when people who actively practice their respective religions and give thanks to God for their many blessings. It is a time when families and friends gather around a common dining table to feast on the many delicacies prepared by family members. However, this holiday was different from the other years for thousands and thousands of victims of Superstorm Sandy. Hundreds have lost their homes to fires or through demolition due to the unsafe conditions in which the storm rendered them. But, yet still, we have a lot to thank God for. In as much as we all have lost so much, we still are thankful to God for being spared death through drowning in the raging waters of the Atlantic Ocean when it cascaded over the villages on the Peninsula and the coastal towns leaving death and destruction in its path.
Sandy, was, and is an experience that anyone who was impacted by her would never forget, my wife, family circle, and I included. The raging waters and howling winds, gushing up to 70 and 80 miles per hour, have etched an indelible mark on our hearts and minds. As I sit here penning this article I am envisioning water rolling through my opened bedroom door, soon to engulf me and my mattress in a raging flood. But then, suddenly, the feeling passes, and rational thinking returns, even though a recurrence is ever present. But God is watching over us. He would take care of us. He does not give us more than we can handle.
On that fateful night my wife and I were at home preparing to handle the storm, putting property on higher ground and placing sand bags in front of doors and taping window glass. We placed our washing machine and clothes dryer on eight foot high pedestals hoping to avoid contact with whatever “little” water may come into the space. But the “little” water turned out to be a torrent of water. Soon we had to abandoned our futile efforts and seek refuge and safety on the second floor of our house.
The water did not come in gradually. Rather it rushed, gushed in. One moment there was no water on the streets. The next moment there was amount an inch of water. Then in the next moment the flood gates were opened and waves of water rumbled through the streets. Within another 15 to 20 minutes vehicles parked on the streets or in driveways were submerged in the murky, salty waters. Mounds of debris were being dragged by the water on the streets. At the highest point the water was six feet high on the streets and in the first floors of the houses. As I sit on my bed writing I feel shivers going through my mind and body. I can “see” the water “coming” in my room. It was a scary feeling, not knowing whether the waters would engulf us all into oblivion.
Like I said before, it is an experience that would remain in victims’ minds for the rest of their lives. My wife and I, along with our children and grandchildren live on the Rockaway Peninsula, one of the places hit hardest by Sandy. During the past few weeks since the storm hit, we have sat down as a family and have talked about our individual feelings and reaction to the catastrophe and how each intend to cope with the emotional trauma. One thing is clear in the minds of all of us: we would deal with it. We are determined to “move on”. We draw strength from each other.
We have lost so much, both emotionally and in personal belongings. Every household have lost. The lower parts of the houses were ravaged. Hundreds of houses were so badly damaged that they had to be pulled down. Some families have lost at least two vehicles. My wife and I lost all three of our vehicles. In all, our extended family lost nineteen vehicles. The first floor of our house was, like others, inundated with water. The walls had to be demolished and the floors uprooted. We are now in the rebuilding process. We are determined to get our lives back on track.
I have spoken to numerous people on the Peninsula who have suffered greatly and lost so much. One sentiment they are all sounding and that is that they are determined to put their lives back together. So many have told me that this catastrophe has taught them “the meaning of life.” They are resolved to do better and to “look at life differently. For our family, we feel the same.
I have decided to pen the account of the storm in this article not to elicit any form of pity for us, the victims, but to inform people that whoever they are or whatever they own can be taken away from them in a single moment. We should try to live in unity and harmony with each other, not boasting of our worth, but rather counting our blessings.
Note: In a couple of days I would pen the third article in this series.
Sam Sooppersaud who lives in the Rockaways was personally affected by Superstorm Sandy