Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Revisting the Rockaways

Slowly, the community is rebuilding.  Some houses that were nearly destroyed are being rebuilt, on their same foundations, in the same location - right on the beachfront.  The beach area in front of these homes is lined with sand-filled bags, where boardwalks used to be.  Other homes are gone, only their foundations remain, resting in place, memorials to the destruction of Sandy. And I don't understand why they are rebuilding in the same precarious place where their homes were so heavily damaged.

Every where I walked, the sound of the surf and gulls mixed with the sound of construction work.  Men perched on balconies high above the ground, hammering, sawing and drilling. Most ignored me as I stopped to watch, some waved, others posed for photos.

On a day that was warm, the sand gritty and pale beneath my bare feet and the long stretch of beach beckoning me to walk from 69 Street to 167 Street, I remember.  I remember my first visit to this area, when I gasped at how the sand was pale gold like the wheat in the fields of my childhood.  And the water azure blue of the water.  And the shells and glass tossed along the pale ridges.  I remember my second visit, after the hurricane, when the beach was littered with trash and debris and the houses tilted on their sides haphazardly, missing roofs, missing walls, missing stairs, completely or partially exposed.  Exposed and vulnerable.  And I remember other visits.  Returning to help much out basements, to distribute jackets, to help rebuild the library, to hand out clothes and books, to dish out Christmas dinners, to photograph families with Santa...  And I remember looking in to the eyes of survivors: vacant eyes, moist eyes, angry eyes and eyes that were so filled with sorrow and loss that even today my heart aches to think of their pain.

And so today I walk this beach that I loved the moment I stepped out on to for the very first time.  And seeing and hearing the rebuilding, I witness life going on.  Life moving ever on.  And now I begin to understand why they will rebuild in the same precarious place where there homes were so heavily damaged. 


Pat Birch said...

Wow Tina! Such destruction and yet so beautiful in this area.

Christina Whiting said...

The Rockaways are a very special place...