common / SandyEdition

A Dual Challenge: FamilyAnd Community

By Phil Goldfeder

As a community and family, no matter how dark the night or difficult the day, we rise and carry on together toward recovery.

The first days after Sandy were met with unimaginable disbelief and chaos. Left without power or cell service and no sign of help on the way, it was through the kindness of strangers and neighbors helping neighbors that we survived.

Now, nearly 365 days since the storm as we all continue to recover, the destroyed boardwalk scattered throughout the neighborhood, stranded first responders, frantic phone calls and cleaning my own home of mold and debris, remain fresh in my memory.

My staff and I worked tirelessly in the days leading up to the storm, but nothing could have prepared us for what was to come. The night of Sandy, as I escaped my own home from rising waters, I sought refuge at the 101st Precinct, where I watched the heroic actions of the NYPD and FDNY. I saw how exhausted and worn they had become only a few hours into the storm. I recall one officer who had come into the precinct and threw his wetsuit off, only to be called again a few seconds later. Without skipping a beat, he was dressed and back out.

Riddled with nerves and anxiety, each call that came into the precinct made my stomach churn, thinking about our community and families, hoping everyone made it to safety, hoping my own family was safe.

My wife Esther and I have always discussed our own famiy’s evacuation plans in the event of an emergency, however as Sandy approached, we found ourselves split; a truly haunting feeling for a family and a father.

I didn’t want to take any chances. Esther, together with Eliana, my 3-yearold daughter and Asher, my 2-year-old son, evacuated to Long Island to be with my in-laws, hours before the storm hit in full force. I was comforted to know that they would be safe and surrounded by loved ones, as I remained to help. At that time, I didn’t realize it would be days before I spoke with my family again and over a week before we would be together.

The rising sun the day after Sandy did not bring any comfort but rather shined a light on the destruction not only to my own home, but on our entire community. The days that followed brought many challenges and since there was no power, the only communication with my family was limited to short emails.

It was the strength and tenacity of my wife that held our family together. She worked tirelessly to care for our children and took every appropriate step to ensure our own recovery was moving forward. She encouraged me to continue relief efforts in every neighborhood and help our many families that were still in need, even though she was suffering, too. Although it would still be months before we returned to our own home, being together was more than enough.

My wife’s response matched so many others after Sandy. I witnessed countless neighbors whose own homes were destroyed make sure their neighbors were okay and given the supplies they needed to get through the day. If you were not at someone’s front door speaking with them face-to-face, they were completely cut off, but somehow we still managed to find each other. I used social media to communicate with residents and because my office was also destroyed, I worked mostly from my car as I traveled from house to house of various community leaders trying to assist wherever I could.

In what seemed like a tunnel with no end in sight, days turned into weeks and then months and now we realize how far we’ve come. Nearly, 365 days ago, Sandy came in as a force of destruction. But what came next was even more unexpected. We became a stronger force of unity and strength that no storm can ever take from us.

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder represents the 23rd District in the New York State Assembly which includes Rockaway, Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach, Lindenwood and Ozone Park. Nearly 85% of his constituents were impacted by Sandy.

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