Sandy: not blown out of proportionAlmost everything Audrey Pagano knows from her childhood is gone. “The whole neighborhood is wiped out – homes that have been there for a long time,” said Pagano. An Alexandria resident for 37 years, Pagano grew up in Staten Island, New York, where Hurricane Sandy ripped a path of destruction on October 29.
By: Jo Colvin, Alexandria Echo Press
Almost everything Audrey Pagano knows from her childhood is gone.
“The whole neighborhood is wiped out – homes that have been there for a long time,” said Pagano.
An Alexandria resident for 37 years, Pagano grew up in Staten Island, New York, where Hurricane Sandy ripped a path of destruction on October 29. Three of her brothers were affected by the storm.
Sandy tore through Pagano’s old neighborhood in Staten Island, which she says “got hit hard,” and did serious damage to her childhood home, a couple blocks from the beach. That home is where her brother, Bobby, now lives.
“The water came up halfway through the windows. He had to take everything out of the house and has to take all the walls down,” Pagano said. “Where my sadness comes is that that’s all he has. He’s lived there his whole life.”
Her brother, Tom, who also lives close to the beach, had a foot of water in his home and will have to rebuild part of it.
Neither brother was prepared for the powerful impact of the storm. On the Monday morning the storm hit, Pagano called Bobby and asked if he had made any preparations.
“They are pretty cynical because every time there is a big storm coming, they blow it out of proportion,” Pagano said. “Nobody evacuated.”
This time they should have paid attention. Hours after her phone call, the concerned sister was unable to reach either sibling. She didn’t get through to them until Wednesday through a text message.
The report was not good. Her brothers and lifelong friends in New York estimate that about two-thirds of the people on the island have significant damage and have lost most of their belongings.
As of Wednesday, November 6, her brothers on Staten Island still had no power or water. They slept in their cars the first couple nights, but have since rented a home in the middle of the island until power is restored and Bobby can get back into his home.
Hurricane Sandy’s magnitude also reached her brother, Frank, who lives in Colt’s Neck, New Jersey. Although he’s not close to the water, he lost power, water and several trees. Power was restored there on November 6.
But it’s her New York friends and family who took the brunt of the storm, especially those in the southern part of Staten Island.
“I feel for them. When you are away and can’t really do anything to help them…” she said as tears came to her eyes. “These people are hurting and I really can’t do anything for them.”
According to her New York family, mounds of household garbage line the streets of Staten Island. People have no power, water, clothing and food. The ferries were not functioning for several days. There aren’t enough portable bathrooms and the sewers aren’t functioning. Although the bridges were passable, residents are unable to obtain gas to drive to work.
“There are people waiting in gas lines for days,” Pagano said.
Despite the havoc the hurricane wreaked, Pagano says that her brothers say that it has brought out the best in some people.
“Tom said he can’t believe the amount of kids who came to help people clean up,” she said. “He said it has restored his faith.”
Hurricane Sandy has also taught some Easterners a lesson about heeding future storm warnings.
“A lot of people are going to be thinking differently after this. The complacency is going to wane a bit,” Pagano concluded. “I think some people have learned a valuable lesson.”
HOW TO HELP
To contribute to the Hurricane Sandy clean-up, contact the following nonprofit organizations:
--American Red Cross: www.redcross.org, 1-800-HELPNOW (435-7669), or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation that will show up on your phone bill.
--Salvation Army: www.salvationarmyusa.org or text STORM to 80888 to make a $10 donation.
--United Way Sandy Recovery Fund: www.uwsandyrecovery.org or text RECOVERY to 52000 to contribute $10.