Six months later, Sandy survivors recall devastation and hope

When Superstorm Sandy made landfall in the American Northeast last October, millions were left without power or basic supplies in its aftermath. Celeste Grimes of New York City remembers World Vision’s presence in her neighborhood when her family was in great need.

By Laura Reinhardt, World Vision U.S.
Published April 29, 2013 at 12:00am PDT

Celeste Grimes remembers walking with her children through Far Rockaway, her neighborhood in the Queens borough of New York, the morning after Superstorm Sandy blasted through in late October.

When it arrived, it carried 80-mph winds and an unrelenting sea surge. At least 285 people were killed along the storm’s path in seven countries.

The National Hurricane Center reports that the storm resulted in an estimated $75 billion in property damages — making it the second-costliest Atlantic hurricane to hit the United States, exceeded only by Hurricane Katrina.

“We were crying the whole time,” Celeste says about that morning walk. Their neighborhood had been devastated. One of the local schools had mounds of seaweed inside. Cars were overturned; garbage bins were blown against houses.

“We’ve seen people in the streets crying, misplaced, and displaced,” she says. “The sand was on the street — literally, the beach was on the street.”

A place of need

Far Rockaway is a peninsula in the borough of Queens. To one side is a bay, and on the other is the ocean. Celeste says that Sandy brought the two bodies of water together.

This isn’t a wealthy community. According to the U.S. Census, 25 percent of its residents live below the poverty line, compared to 15 percent for the rest of the state. Seventy-seven percent of students here subscribe to the free lunch program.

Celeste Grimes lives in a housing project in Far Rockaway with her husband and three of their children. Last October, they decided to wait out Superstorm Sandy, and Celeste and her family watched from their eleventh-floor apartment as the waters rose rapidly.

‘We thought we were forgotten’

For a week after the storm, the family and most of the neighborhood lived without power and hot water. They lost all the food they had in the freezer and refrigerator. And because nearly all of the stores were destroyed in Far Rockaway, it was almost a 20-mile round trip to pick up even basic items.

“We thought we were forgotten for a while,” she remembers. “Does anyone know we’re here? Can we expect anyone to help us?”

When the Full Gospel Tabernacle opened its doors with supplies following the disaster, Celeste got an answer. It was a God-send for her and many other families in the area.

“I don’t know if people realize how important the local churches are,” she says. “Without the church, we wouldn’t have made it.”

‘Thank you for being epic’

World Vision provided relief supplies to Full Gospel Tabernacle, including hygiene kits, cleaning supplies, and Family Food Kits.

In the days following the storm, Celeste and her family received items such as soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, and conditioner.

“First of all, it’s like a little care package,” she says. “You guys know basically what we need.”

A pastor from Full Gospel Tabernacle notes that Celeste is just one of hundreds of people who were helped by World Vision’s generous donors following the storm. His church served between 300 and 500 people each day in the first few weeks after Sandy.

Celeste has a message for those whose contributions made this possible: “Thank you for being epic at the time we needed you to be epic,” she says. “Words cannot express the gratitude that we have.”

There for the long haul

Part of World Vision’s disaster response strategy is to provide support over the long term to those affected by emergencies — after the headlines have faded and initial relief efforts are complete.

Nearly six months after Superstorm Sandy’s landfall, World Vision continues to assist by offering building materials to help Full Gospel Tabernacle, which was badly damaged by the storm. Those supplies also will go to families as they begin the rebuilding process.

World Vision will continue to support the region with assistance through December 2013, partnering with churches and other local organizations to meet the needs of residents as they rebuild their lives.

Learn more

Read more about World Vision’s work in the United States, including additional articles on our response to Superstorm Sandy.

Three ways you can help

Please pray for those who were affected by Superstorm Sandy last fall. Pray for them as they continue to recover, and pray for those who are providing assistance.

Make a one-time donation to World Vision’s U.S. Disaster Response Fund. Your gift will help us respond quickly and effectively to disasters that occur right here in the United States, like Superstorm Sandy.

Give monthly to support World Vision’s U.S. programs. Your monthly donation will support our work with American children, families, and communities in need.