As I made my way into this once beautiful waterfront home, I quickly realized what little chance we would have in being able to repair it and make it a livable house again. The home that this man loved so dearly for the past 40 years was almost completely destroyed in just two nights.
Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast of the United States last year with such incredible force that it literally tore homes apart, particularly in regions with plenty of beach area such as Long Island and New Jersey. On Long Island alone an estimated 100,000 buildings were damaged by the storm last year. As a Long Island native and part-time carpenter, I saw the effects of this destruction firsthand and it was honestly shocking.
When pulling in to the driveway to work on this man’s home, I noticed that he did not even have a front door and that his patio was almost completely gone. The inside of the house was almost completely destroyed from water damage, rotting wood everywhere. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a neighborhood torn up that bad” said Patrick O’Shea, a carpenter working on the home, “I wasn’t even sure if the house would be worth saving with the shape it was in.” While the house that we were working on was in bad shape, it was not even the worst-conditioned house on the block, as several homes had lost entire sections of the structure, debris piling by the sidewalks.
For those who lived in these areas and were fortunate enough to be able to stay in their homes, the issue of power and electricity was another major problem. The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) has been the island’s electricity supplier for many years now, and when Hurricane Sandy struck almost 90% of the island’s 1.1 million people lost power. Areas that were closer to the water tended to lose power for longer periods of time. Thomas Vonderveldt, a resident of Babylon village (which is located on the water), claimed that while his home wasn’t greatly damaged, he and his family were left without power from late October until early December. “I didn’t think we would be dealing with being without power for that long” says Vonderveldt “Once I heard that it would take a month I didn’t believe it”. The thousands of complaints lodged against LIPA for its inefficiency in wake of the storm caused Governor Andrew Cuomo to call for an alternative energy plan to be enacted sooner than later.
Along with destruction to our houses and buildings, many of the beaches that we call “home” had been greatly eroded by the storm, to a degree where several popular spots were closed down for the entire summer. Cameron Black, a lifeguard at ever-popular Jones Beach, says that the erosion that has occurred is “ridiculous”, and that it caused more crowded conditions than usual during some of his shifts because of the lack of actual beach for people to lie on. Andrew Cremer, a lifeguard who works on the barrier beach and popular tourist attraction Fire Island, said that in some areas that the beaches were almost gone completely, “It’s sad to see how much is gone, I love being there in the summer.”
Despite all of the problems that have been caused by the hurricane which struck nearly a full year ago, people continue to rebuild, and people continue to have hope. Janet Schafer, a neighbor of mine who organized a small clothes drive for victims, said that “it really seemed like it brought out the best in people”. She went on to describe how she saw people from all over the neighborhood trying to help each other and those who were less fortunate than them, it seemed to make them rally together.
I will still always remember looking at that house with such a dreary gray background, thinking that nobody would be able to salvage that house. The old man continues to work on his home, almost one year after it had been destroyed. Day by day, board by board, he continues to rebuild his own home with the help of family and contractors. The hope that he has is representative of the island as a whole, it says that we will be fine the day after a storm.