Sierra Club
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Life at the Beach Will Never Be the Same

My brother and I have lived on Staten Island for most of our lives. We had a pretty dysfunctional family situation and therefore lived with foster parents in Midland Beach for a good chunk of our childhood. The house was a winterized bungalow. Our school was only a couple of blocks from the beach. That time holds such wonderful memories. We walked to the beach almost everyday of our summer vacation. It was a great beach for kids as it is bay water and therefore did not have the rough waves of the ocean. It is probably because of these memories, my brother and his wife decided to purchase another winterized bungalow on the beach of Cedar Grove in Staten Island.

During Hurricane Sandy, that beautiful, calm bay water became something unrecognizable. Fortunately my brother and his wife were out of town on a long planned vacation. My nephew was taking care of their pets and generally looking out for the house. As the storm approached, the pets were stored at the vet’s, the cars were moved to higher ground, the air conditioner moved from the window and all storm windows were secured. My brother expected a flooded basement. Irene had flooded his basement despite his resolve to keep the pumps going. No one expected Sandy to change that beautiful, calm bay water to become a powerful, destructive force that destroyed homes, floated trucks, moved tankers ashore and killed so many people.

So now we stand in my brothers home with gaping holes in the walls and floors remembering the hours of work he put into his little home. Our hearts break as we sift through a foot of debris trying to find the bits and pieces of their lives. We never did find my sister-in-law’s engagement ring which she left home for safekeeping. They are better off than most. Their pets are safe, they have a warm place to stay and loving family to help them. They will rebuild there on the beach which, usually, is a wonderful place to live. but I wonder how long before the next Sandy or worse.

Two years ago, we had three huge snowstorms in a the space of 6 weeks. Last year we had Irene and then a freak snowstorm in October that wreaked havoc across this island. This year we have had Sandy. What is next ? When will our elected officials stop playing politics with climate change and actually do something?

One of many houses in Staten Island, N.Y. destroyed by Hurricane Sandy - Photo by Cpl. Bryan Nygaard, II Marine Expeditionary Force