My husband and I drove to East Rockaway this weekend to help my stepsons with the cleanup of their houses. The weather was beautiful—sun shining in a cloudless sky, a windless, clear day. The canal they live on connects to the Great South Bay. It is one of the most stunning places to live on Long Island. In fact, there aren’t many places in the world as lovely on a calm, clear day. I thought I would be repelled by the view of the canal and the bay beyond it. But, the allure was still there. The limitless view of sparkling water and gently swaying tides erased the cruelty that it caused just a few days before.
Once I turned my gaze to the houses that line the canal, the destruction was the prevalent “in your face” scene. The structures were standing and looking oddly neat, like the ocean had cleansed the sooty grime of sand and oily exhausts from their facades. The curbs out front told a different story. Entire contents of most homes were sitting forlorn , broken and water logged, waiting for the Sanitation pickups that came down the streets in a constant loop. There was a stale, moldy smell with a hint of raw sewage that permeated the entire area.
The devastation was most apparent inside the houses. Wood floors were buckled, rising at least six inches in spots. The water line which looked to be about four feet above the floor created an ugly dark chair rail adorned with black sticky seaweed. The walls were peeling paint and plaster. Appliances were flooded. Some rooms actually tilted away from the main structure.
People were out and about carrying furniture, big, black plastic bags, toys and lighting fixtures to the curb. They stopped and chatted, comforted by the fact that they were all in this together. Everyone was planning on rebuilding. There was real relief that things were not as bad as they could be—as they were in so many other places that Sandy, the super storm, trampled over.