The night of October 29, 2012 changed our small beachfront community forever. Wind-driven storm surge from superstorm Sandy flooded the entire neighborhood leaving anything under five feet high submerged in the murky water. Recovery in Hamilton Beach, has been slow and steady, but we’re seeing our community skyline progress.
As we walk through the neighborhood construction from superstorm Sandy continues. Homes are being knocked down, rebuilt and elevated to withstand future flooding thanks to the NYC Build It Back Program. It’s been a grueling process dealing with the program’s setbacks, but hope has been rekindled to neighbors here who have been in living in limbo, now that their seeing new home’s resurrect.
After the storm there was only two options: put a band-aid on your home and wait for the government to step in or flip the bill yourself, do the work and pray for a reimbursement. Being an impatient person, we went on our own.
If you think a natural disaster can’t happen to you, think again. Up until the very last seconds before the water started seeping into our home through the baseboards, I thought water couldn’t possible enter our home. In fact, when our neighbor came to warn us to close our front door in ankle-high water I still thought sand bags piled in front of our home and a bath towel in between the storm door and front door would stop the water. (Needless to say it didn’t.) Yes, we were warned by officials using a mega phone up and down our block to evacuate, but we live on the highest block in our area and most of us didn’t believe it would be that bad– comparing it to past storms. Well, we were wrong.
Before the storm, we stocked up on batteries, food, flash lights and took out the cat carriers just in case we needed to grab them quickly and keep them contained. We had also decided we were going to sleep on the pull out couch downstairs as a precaution if by some chance the two large trees on our property fell on the house. (Thank god they didn’t.) Well, that plan foiled once the water made an appearance in our home. We tried to grab what we could quickly and run upstairs where we were trapped for the night. Despite being prepared most of the items we collected were destroyed in the flood. Our refrigerator knocked over, kitchen cabinets submerged so our food wasn’t good. The batteries and flash lights also destroyed. So, my recommendation is to have these items on both floors of your home during a storm or in a bag near your stairs just in case you have to flee.
As clean up began, it was a constant reminder of how much stuff was lost. Electronics, furniture, antiques, kitchenware, memorabilia, planners, photos and so much more. You had to constantly remind yourself, “it’s just stuff.” Every door you opened, every drawer you opened, in corners and boxes all around “stuff” wading in water. I think because I was in the home when the event happened, I was more okay with letting go of my superficial belongings because I knew it could’ve been a lot worse our lives were in danger and that you can’t replace. I will admit though trying to save boxes of photos and a trunk full of 10 years worth of 9-11 newspapers and memorabilia to build a scrapbook were some of the hardest moments.
Since we took on rebuilding ourselves we needed a plan. Luckily, our financial plan was able to give us enough money to start the demolition and construction while waiting for insurance and FEMA to kick-in. Within 24 hours of the storm’s passing we were on the phone setting up professionals and gutting the first floor of our home. Part of our plan was to use our strengths. So, my husband got work on staying in contact with contractors, insurance and organizations to get us funding and I was responsible for putting our home back together. I knew I wanted to use every square inch of our small space and make it as functional as possible, you can check out some of the remodeling we did in this video below.
My neighbors are a bunch of good-natured, tightly knit folks, and when bad things happen, we collectively come together and make sure everybody has whatever they need. It is hard to overstate just how good a feeling it is to know that when things get tough, there are people you know, or a group to which you belong, that will help look out for you. It’s comforting to know you’re not alone, that you’re going through the same thing everybody else is on your block, in your community and around the region.