A Rockaway womans Sandy story and reflections on climate change
by David Pomerantz
November 4, 2012
Hurricane Sandy destroyed Joan Flynns home in Rockaway Beach, NY. She and her husband Steven have been environmentally conscious and concerned about climate change for decades. They see the event as a wake-up call about the climate change that fuels extreme weather events like Sandy. As they and their family pick up the pieces and figure out how to rebuild, Joan took a few minutes to share her story, and what she would say to the politicians she charges with tackling global warming. Greenpeace: Tell us about what happened to you and your home. [caption id="attachment_12362" align="alignnone" width="584" caption="Joan Flynn's neighborhood in Rockaway, courtesy Joan Flynn and Steven Jambeck"][/caption] Joan Flynn: Our decision to stay in our house during the storm was influenced a lot by Hurricane Irene, the last hurricane that hit us. That turned out to be nothing, and it lulled a lot of people into complacency about Sandy. On Monday, A neighbor of ours went down to the oceans with his two kids and put sandbags at the seawall, thinking that would make a difference. All of a sudden we see him on the run with his kids, and I asked him what was wrong, and he said the seawall broke and behind him was a rush of water. We live 1,000 feet from the ocean and it wasnt just a little flood, it was a rush of water coming down the street. We and our neighbors camped out on our second floor, and when it started getting really bad, we tried to go to another neighbors house with a higher second floor. It was dark already, and we were like a train holding each others shoulders to get to his house. When we went to step out across the street, the current was so strong that we had to get back, because it would have taken us. The rush of the water coming in from the ocean up the street had nothing to slow it down, and we would have been dead. So we all went back to our house and went upstairs. We got Marie, our neighbor on chemo who was with us, settled into bed. From our second story we can see east and west, and at one point I looked out west and I could see this amazing glow of light. Usually if theres a fire in Breezy Point you hear the fire siren and then you hear the city fire engines coming from 40 blocks away. I looked at Steven and I said I havent heard any fire engines. None. So we realized that was going to be a pretty outrageous hit. Maybe 20 minutes later, we started smelling smoke. We looked out to the east and there were fires there as well. The thing I realize now is that both Steven and I were illogically calm. I felt ready: I had people to take care of, because Marie was sick, and her husband was beside himself because her immune system was compromised. I didnt think about being afraid, I thought about staying calm and what we needed to do next.