I never imagined my first visit to New York would consist of filtering through the wreckage Sandy left behind at the Rockaways, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have never been exposed to a natural disaster zone, although it didn’t take long for me to realize this wasn’t just a hurricane they dealt with, this was something much more. This was a Frankenstorm: a climate change monster.
My fellow Greenpeace Semester classmates, Kris Brown, Kati Ward and myself decided to drive up to New York after class on Friday November 9thto bear witness and devote our weekend with Occupy Sandy and YANA (You Are Not Alone). YANA is comprised of many locals who have quit their day jobs and instead devote their time to building back up their hometown and the people who live there as well. It’s so inspiring to watch these brave locals push through blood, sweat and tears for their community, only to go home to a house with no power that is still ruined from the storm.
Kris and I walked along the fragments of the boardwalk one night, sifting through the sand dunes in the middle of the street full of personal belongings. We talked to a local lady who had weathered the storm. She stayed with her upstairs neighbor and watched as the surge flooded her street, the cars started swirling with their alarms and lights going off and prayed her son would quickly return from saving their elderly neighbor from her basement apartment. She told me about one older man who refused to leave his apartment and ended up drowning.
I asked if she planned on staying in the Rockaways after the devastation of Sandy and she looked at me like I was crazy. She told me there was no way she would leave the Rockaways. It has always been her home, and that’s why she stayed through the storm.
I found that statement to be a resounding community anthem. It was also obvious to everyone we talked to that this storm was unlike anything they’ve experience in their lifetimes. Everyone we talked to had no doubt that climate change created this monster. The Rockaways want to take the opportunity Sandy has given to make a switch to clean energy, which is hopeful and a promising ray of light that may shine through the wreckage and doom Sandy left in her wake. Don’t forget about the Rockaways. They are still in need of help and without power. Remind them: you are not alone.
Interested in joining the Greenpeace Semester for amazing organizing experiences like this one? Apply today for the summer semester!
This blog was written by Ellen Enquist. Ellen is a senior at Boise State University where she’s majoring in Environmental Studies. She is a member of our current Greenpeace Semester class.