Hurricane Sandy: One Year Later

by Robert Gardner

October 29, 2013

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath Rockaway N.Y. Make shift garbage dump in Jacob Riis park parking lot , Solar panel trucks helping to light Rockaway Beach neighborhood © Bruce Cotler 2012 for Greenpeace

Cotler Bruce

Sandy Photo 4One year ago Superstorm Sandy barreled headlong into Brigantine, New Jersey. That was a year ago today. Now, it’s a year later. I’ve wrestled with lots of different emotions since that day. It’s been a hell of a year — and there’s been a lot to think about. Putting myself back there, at that time, it was a roller coaster. Back then, if I can remember correctly, and for a lot of us that went to help in the storms wake, a frightening truth was apparent American Climate Change was here.

In the aftermath, entire communities were turned upside down. Cars were piled up on street corners, the subway was completely shut down, huge stretches of the city were dark and 43 New Yorkers were dead. I remember driving the Rolling Sunlight into Brooklyn that first night. After picking up food, clothing and other supplies at St. Lukes in Brooklyn, we headed straight out Broad Channel.

See 19 stirring photos from Hurricane Sandy

Broad Channel was in ruins. I remember a boat in the middle of the road. There were several cars lodged into houses. It looked like the storm had been a decade ago. Everything was abandoned. It was very cold. It took a while to see that the roads were paved sand was everywhere. This was a harbinger of the months to come.

I felt like the city was holding its breath. The pressure was palpable.

The response was overwhelming. Impacted communities dug in — and dug out. Occupy Sandy was first on the scene. With the communities, they ran distribution networks that were the envy of FEMA and the Red Cross. We setup the Rolling Sunlight in Rockaway Beach in what would become YANA — or “You Are Never Alone.”

I could tell a dozen stories about the specific people there, going house to house searching for survivors, putting together clinics with Doctors Without Borders, and more. But what it comes down to is that the people in Rockaway Beach — the volunteers, organizers, rebuilding crew — hands down are the best people I’ve ever met in my life.That much is without debate. I miss them every day I don’t see them.

In the past year, YANA has worked on storm relief efforts, distributing donations, serving hot meals, providing free medical care and dispatching volunteers throughout the Rockaways. It is a worker retraining and green job center. They are the solution.

And the truth is that Sandy isnt over. In one year, these communities have come so far — remediating, repairing, rebuilding, and changing the system so that it works for them. Years of work in one. Urgency is everywhere. It has brought out the best in some and the worst in those trying to grab land, push out the community and put up expensive, out of touch high rises.

But it doesnt have to be that way. New York and New Jersey don’t have to be bought out. Disaster Capitalism doesn’t have to be the way forward. Thats why were continuing to take action along with the community.

On the 27th, a broad coalition of organizations, operating under the banner of Turn the Tide put together a march and rally at New York City Hall. On a crisp, clear afternoon hundreds demanded a fair and just rebuilding of New York City. Folks walked from all corners of the city to demand equity. To demand righteousness.

And today, along with Organizing for Action, Sierra Club, Climate Parents, League of Conservation Voters, Climate Reality Project, Forecast the Facts, Iowa Climate Advocates, Interfaith Power & Light, and Environment America, thousands are taking action to remember Sandy’s impacts.

I’m taking action for the Arctic 30. For my friends at YANA. For all those that worked so hard during this past year. For those killed in the storm. For future generations that have to live with an unstable climate. I’m taking action for a just and stable future. For an end to disaster capitalism. And for all those reasons I’m asking you to do the same.

The fight continues. Take Action. Give to Sandy Relief. Friend YANA. Watch and share this movie. The work is not over.

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