Hurricane Sandy Victims Celebrate Thanksgiving, Even Without Power
GERRITSEN BEACH — For the first time in 50 years, Peggy Taylor and her family won’t have Thanksgiving at her home.
Hurricane Sandy ruined her entire ground floor — including the kitchen where her daughter Wendy Taylor says, “She usually does a spread for an army.”
The feast has been moved to the home of Peggy Taylor’s other daughter, located a few doors down.
The dinner will be simpler than usual and served on paper plates because her daughter’s home suffered basement flooding and has no hot water for dishwashing.
There were better locations like Wendy Taylor’s place in New Jersey, but most of the family lives in Gerritsen Beach and they want to stay close to home in case an insurance agent, utility worker or electrician finally gets around to assessing their damage.
“Everybody is afraid to leave because you never know if someone is going to show up,” Wendy Taylor, 38, said Tuesday afternoon outside her mother’s home as they waited for a FEMA agent to arrive.
Three weeks after Hurricane Sandy hit, the disruptions continue, even to how families in the city celebrate the holidays. Some said they will forgo their turkey traditions and improvise. Others said they will cook their meals without power. And the ones whose homes have finally returned to normal said they're giving thanks for a hot shower.
“I’m not thankful. I’m grateful,” Yesenia Rojas, 40, said. “I shall no longer in my life take anything for granted. Not water, not power.”
The Long Island Power Authority restored electricity to her Far Rockaway apartment building on Monday at 3 p.m. Her hot water returned two hours later after a plumber fixed her boiler.
“When I took a shower, boy, I can’t even tell you how I felt,” Rojas said.
She and her 10-year-old daughter had endured three weeks of frigid nights. They warmed themselves by turning on the stovetop burners. She preserved food by keeping open a window in a bedroom to create a makeshift icebox.
Rojas said her eyes are still readjusting to having light again, but she plans on cooking a Puerto Rican-style Thanksgiving meal. There will be turkey, as well as pork shoulder, macaroni and cheese and arroz con dulce.
“We’re going to cook our butts off. Then we’ll have food for a week,” she said.
John Langone, 41, has been couch-surfing at friends and families’ homes since Sandy wrecked his Gerritsen Beach house. The Port Authority electrician has spent the past three weeks giving free estimates of repairs to neighbors in hopes of protecting them from opportunists who bill for that service.
“They were charging $300 or $350 just for walking in the door,” Langone said at a
FEMA site in the Rockaways.
His good works have kept his attention away from his own damaged home.
“I haven’t even touched mine yet,” he said.
He plans to focus on it on Thanksgiving.
“I’m going to stay around and work on my home,” Langone said. “I figure that’s the day nobody else will be doing something.”
Even with the upheaval to Gerritsen Beach, the tightknit community intends to hold onto one half-century-old tradition: the Ragamuffin Parade. Each Thanksgiving neighborhood children dressed like extras in an Oliver Twist movie follow Santa Claus through the streets as he rides on a fire engine.
“We are trying to keep it as normal as possible for the kids,” Peggy Taylor said.
The 79-year-old widow also plans on a rebuilding her home. Volunteers have already helped her gut the kitchen and living room. She also just received an insurance check to pay for repairs.
“We’ll have [Thanksgiving] here again,” she said.