A digger with a tricolor flag working on Beach 91st Street in the Rockaways Photo by: Molly Muldoon

Hurricane Sandy one month on - Irish Day of Action reveals many still hurting in the Rockaways


A digger with a tricolor flag working on Beach 91st Street in the Rockaways Photo by: Molly Muldoon

As he began mopping the floor, Joshua seemed content with the progress. More than three weeks after Sandy hit his family finally got heat and power back on Thanksgiving Day.

On a day when Americans traditionally give praise for all the things they value in their lives, he told us, his family was thankful they were able to have a hot shower.

As we left, he embraced each of us with a heartfelt hug as he repeatedly thanked us for taking the time to help.

Back at base on Beach 96th Street, our group of volunteers huddle in the makeshift medical supplies room upstairs to eat our packed lunches.

Michelle Cortez, a Rockaways resident and the leader of the Small Water charity, drops in and shares her concerns with us about the future of the neighborhood. She is disappointed with the lack of federal assistance.

“Given the amount of money the Red Cross has raised, it should be annoying how much we see them. Their presence should be huge,” she says.

A tall brunette, Cortez is dressed in overalls and several layers as she tells us she returned from a two month surfing trip right before Sandy hit. Her new full time job is helping her neighbors through the Small Water charity, alongside a handful of full time volunteers.

“A lot of people are without heat,” Cortez explains. “A lot are without power still.”

One month on, the two biggest concerns for residents are the dropping temperatures and mould Sandy left behind in their homes.

“It’s like a bomb fell out of the sky.” Cortez said. “I spoke to a woman who lost everything, her home and business. She is living off credits and has two small children.

“A lot of people don’t know what to do or where to turn.”

Four weeks after the hurricane struck volunteer numbers are starting to dwindle, but Rockaways residents need help now more than ever, Cortez says.

“Everyone fears people are going to forget about us,” she adds.

Later on that afternoon our group of volunteers piled onto the two yellow school buses for our journey back to Manhattan. People shared stories about their experiences.

The atmosphere was upbeat; we had helped in some small way. But as our buses drove through the streets of the Rockaway Peninsula, the debris piled high on the sidewalks served as a reminder there was a lot more action needed.

Read More: Community spirit of Irish Day of Action in Rockaways captured in pictures

The most alarming thing about the Irish Day of Action was the visible inaction of the federal government. How four weeks on are people still without power and heat in one of the most sophisticated cities in the world?

If we can learn anything from theIrish Day of Action, it should be that Saturday was just the beginning. Our fellow New Yorkers in the Rockaways, in parts of Long Island and Staten Island need our help. Let’s not forget them in their hour of need.


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