Brooklyn Dispatches from Super Storm Sandy

Three eyewitnesses from one borough in hard-hit New York City.

The writer and her family turned a downed tree into an uplifting work of art. 

By Raquel Shalam

During the storm a gigantic oak tree fell on my aunt’s porch on Ocean Parkway. My family decided to do something pretty unconventional. My aunt turned the felled tree into an invocation to make other people smile: we painted the tree. We splattered it with bright colors until the sober feeling of looking at a downed tree was gone.

I was hesitant to start painting because I was nervous people would think I was indifferent to the destruction around me and all I cared about was having some fun. It wasn’t until my sister explained to me that painting our tree was in fact showing our sympathy. We made people smile as they passed by our colorful tree.

I saw how my younger cousins smiled as they decorated the tree. I’m glad I was a part of helping them get over their fear and worry about their home. I take pride in our tree because it represents my aunt’s fortitude. She turned something devastating into a beautiful work of art. We turned a bane into a boon; I don’t think anyone can chastise someone for making a neighbor smile in a time of hardship.

The city cut our tree down into bits and cleaned it all up. As I passed by last week on my way to school, I saw the stump that remained and felt nostalgic. Frieda, my 8-year-old cousin, drew a picture of our tree that we will be able to keep forever.

Raquel Shalam is a sophomore at the Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn.

 

By Melissa Duchan

I was in the back room sewing when everything went pitch black. I went outside and my feet sank into little puddles hidden by leaves and fallen branches from trees. I saw rubble and smelled fire. My heart raced in wonder at what I was seeing: live wires in the street. I thought of my grandparents in Brighton Beach, so stubborn they refused to evacuate while they chastised me not to leave the house when there was the slightest drizzle. I hoped they were OK.

Through the transistor radio came a staticky voice proclaiming that almost 100 houses burned down in Breezy Point, Queens. When it was all over and daylight returned, my email was flooded with pictures of the destruction from friends and family. I know I was lucky that I only lost power for a few days, nothing worse. My grandparents didn’t have electricity, hot water or working toilets so they walked down 19 flights of stairs to the safety of my aunt’s house.

The destruction at Rockaway Beach. Now I see the results of the storm every day. People bike down Flatbush Avenue with supplies for those displaced by the storm. “Where are you going?” I ask. “The Rockaways,” they answer. They head towards the Marine Parkway Bridge, that connects to the Rockaway peninsula.

I remember how many times I biked in the summer the same path, headed for those pristine beaches, where I would excitedly wait for huge waves to wash over me.

The buildings are rubble now and forget the sunny streets filled with restaurants, punctuated by the occasional convenience store, bus stop or subway station. I look back at the remains, I volunteer at the Manhattan Beach YMHA. I listen to the stories of those flooded and homeless, and I appreciate how fortunate I am.

Melissa Duchan is a sophomore at the Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn.  

 

By Tomer Kornfeld

I live on Oxford Street in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn. My bedroom and my siblings’ bedrooms, located in our basement, were flooded and destroyed. My family lost both of our cars and our home is still without power and heat. I am living in my cousin’s house. After the storm hit, I was feeling bad for myself. I was annoyed and mad about my lost belongings and damaged property — like my computer, some shoes, my bed, my Yankee collectibles and more. The contents of the writer's home, flooded by super storm Sandy.

I remained annoyed until the Medical Examiner’s office showed up at my neighbor's home. My elderly neighbor, a professor, passed away during the storm. His death really shocked me and opened my eyes; I realized how much I take for granted from electricity to heat and hot water.

The thing that hit me the most, however, was that people lost their lives in this storm yet I take life for granted all the time. I immediately realized that I have to be so much more appreciative of life. We should all take a moment to be thankful for all that we have — especially the members of our family, no matter how annoying they may seem at times.

Tomer Kornfeld is a senior at the Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn.