So here’s my story: For the past few years my mom, sister, and I have had rented the bottom half of a house located in Amityville, Long Island. Besides the occasional visits back and forth from college, I spent a stable year and a half in that location called home. I loved the area, the quant town, Brownstones, my close by killer bagel shop, my friendship with the loveliest of tailors, the ten minute drive to Argyle Lake, the eclectic houses and of course… all the drama, exposure, and gasps received from living a block down from the Amityville Horror House.
The Beginning: Earlier in the day before Sandy even hit we were already experiencing a very high-tide. When you are surrounded by water- down the block, around the corner, and in your backyard, the odds are pretty much not in your favor. High tide flooded water all the way down our block and actually reached all the way up our driveway. I couldn’t even stand at the end of my corner, in the middle of the street without water pouring into my rain boots. Leopard rain boots. Thankfully, I moved my car before the tide got horrific.
The Departure: My family and I anxiously waited for the tide to recede so we could carry out our plan: get to our booked hotel room. The cars were packed, clothes for a few days already folded away, and cats crying in their portable cages. Dining room set, couches, chairs, planters, everything floor-like, elevated on tall bins. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, when low-tide came around, it wasn’t very low at all. I looked out our window watching the wind send the sea water rippling down our street. I thought to myself, “how the heck are we going to drive my mom’s car out of this mess of a storm that didn’t actually happen yet!” I’m not going to lie. With each half hour that passed I felt more and more trapped in our house. We seriously needed to leave. Late afternoon, we drove my mom’s car through the newly developed lake. The water splashed up the windows of the Ford. Enough said. I thought I was going to have to push that thing out of the water.
Temporary Lodging: Our hotel experience was not so bad. Minus the inconvenience of having to just pick up and leave, we had a nice little evening. Picked on some food, napped, watched more of the news, gained more information on the storm, showered, and watched the new Jonas show. There was a lot of instagramming, facebooking, and reading to keep from falling into boredom. Eventually we lost power.
Morning: Upon waking up my feelings on the storm were, “hmm, not bad.” Where we were located, it just sounded like a strong winters storm outside our windows. The electric was up and running and I thought to myself, “this must have been like another Irene scare.” That was until we called Sandy, our landlord. I know, I can’t make this stuff up. It was then that she told us news that wasn’t good news at all. She explained how we were flooded, how our things were ruined- the whole nine-yards. We really didn’t know what to expect. I mean, it’s not like we’ve been flooded before.
The Damage: Once out and about exploring, the damages from Sandy were undeniably noticeable. You couldn’t get in touch with anyone. Cell towers down, traffic lights pointless. Telephone wires draped the streets, huge trees were uprooted with cement, store signs, shingles, ripped out and thrown to the air. In boating areas, such as Massapequa and Amityville all you could smell was sea water and the strong stench of oil. Dirt and damage was everywhere. The occasional military siting. I could hardly get in touch with Matt, my father, anyone from work. If you weren’t prepared before the storm with equipment, you running around trying to find generators, chainsaws, batteries, gas containers, rain boots, etc. was pretty much a lost cause. Home Depot, Walmart: packed. Places like Long Beach, Freeport, Far Rockaways, Howard Beach, obviously Jersey, the Islands, Manhattan were all conflicted by the storm.
The House: Driving through our Amityville area was a horror. Seeing people outside of their homes crying, angry and shocked was the horrible part. Getting to our house was, how could I say? Abnormal? We couldn’t drive down there because the streets were completely flooded. Blocks down, my mom parked the car, we walked for a bit and then she had to stop due to lack of adequate foot ware , therefore… I carried on in the leopard rain boots (these comments are for those who hate on my rubber soles)! I was the first to get to the house, the first to take off my gross socks. Upon site, there was debris everywhere. You name it was on our lawn. Mud, tall grass, wood, dolls, balls, food, picture frames, Christmas decor, certificates, bottles, shoes, a boat on the side of my house and yes… a huge dock. There were whole houses, gone into the expanded lake. Opening our front door sucked. Our floors were drenched in water and mud. The water reached to a high capacity and knocked everything down that we elevated. Our kitchen floor was curdled up. It smelt horrible. Things in the dining room made it in the living room, things in the living room made it to bedrooms. Water lines on our walls marked the happenings of last night. You get the picture.
Cleaning House: Literally. The week was comparable to the week you experience when someone dies. It’s a blur. Everything happens fast, the days overlap one another, and at the end of each day you are exhausted. That whole week we threw things out, from mattresses, clothes, rugs, and pictures. Packing things, boxing things, airing out pictures on the front lawn. Figuring out how we were going to move what we had into a storage unit. Unlearning old habits. You don’t have to wipe your feet before you enter, you can ring out soaked clothes in your bedroom, and your house is your garbage. Some areas looked like war zones. I can’t really explain to you the capacity of the experience. I guess in one word, I would say that it was “overwhelming.”
Plan B and the New Normal: We didn’t think that we would not have a home to go back to but that is what happened. Not knowing where you’re going to house yourself is not a settling feeling. Thankfully, Matthew’s aunt had a one-bedroom basement apartment that we crashed in. You try living with your mother in that tight space. We still had no electricity for about a week, food stores were running out of necessities, and getting to the pump took hours. Waking up at 4:00am to drive around and look for gas is not fun, especially when your wasting gas driving! The lines were blocks upon blocks long. People waiting 3-8 hours to tank up. People didn’t have power or heat for weeks. Some people still don’t have heat due to the overload of requests. Honestly, showering and eating wasn’t much a priority when you have a ton of other things on your mind. I bummed showers at different joints. Living out of plastic bags gets old fast too. I had the whole missionary look going on for a few weeks and I carried around a backpack with a change of clothes and showering supplies everywhere I went. I finally headed back to work the week after, only to find that my church was damaged as well. We had to gut out the two upper-floor rooms that we just newly painted and carpeted AND due to the nor’easter, we had more flooding and damages that leaked to the first floor. I could not escape water for the life of me.
The End but Not the End: After three weeks of hopping around and traveling back and forth to our old home, we finally packed up shop and removed everything. Of course with the help of many people. Now that was a lot of detail but it only covers 10% of everything I saw, the frustrations I encountered, the concerns I’ve had, the amount of people I spoke to, partnered with and shared their pain. I wish I could bottle it up and show you but that, my friend, is impossible. So this was the overall hard part of the story. Now I’ll get to all the good that has come out of this Sandy. Next post.