‘‘All of us have really bad colds,’’ said Rachael Alhadad, who has a hacking cough. ‘‘We just take it day by day, that’s all. That’s all you can do now.’’
Last week, FEMA finally put the Alhadads up in two rooms at a nearby Holiday Inn, where they'll stay until the federal money runs out on Dec. 15. After that, if their home is still uninhabitable, the family might be eligible for a two-month rental assistance grant from FEMA. But they haven’t made plans and aren’t sure what’s next.
Rachael and her husband, Amin, spend their days shuttling back and forth between the hotel and the house, cleaning the house and cooking meals on the gas stove, which is one of the only things in the house that still works.
Now they must wait as their landlord negotiates with his insurance company. As the days grow shorter, the place has become a damp breeding ground for mold.
‘‘They have to bleach the walls. They have to redo all the floors,’’ Rachael said. ‘‘The whole thing. The bathroom, the kitchen cupboards, the fridge.’’
Amin, who emigrated to the U.S. years ago from Dubai, lost his job as a truck driver because he missed so much work after the storm.
The stress of the past few weeks has taken its toll on 14-year-old Ameer and 15-year-old Ayman, who lost all of their school books and supplies in the flood.
‘‘They just got their report cards, and they’re not doing very good at all,’’ Rachael said. ‘‘It’s hard to study. Because then you gotta think about, ‘Oh no, I gotta go home to the same thing again.'’’
— By Meghan Barr.
There was a moment of horrible disbelief when Linda Marten and her sister, Lauren Mullaney, realized that both of their homes on the Rockaway peninsula had burned to the ground the night Sandy came ashore.
‘‘We were both on the phone, crying, saying, ‘How could this happen?'’’ Marten recalled, her voice cracking with emotion. ‘‘How can we both lose our house? Both of us?’’
Mullaney’s home was among the charred wreckage of more than 100 houses in Breezy Point that were destroyed by a massive fire. A few miles farther east in New York City’s borough of Queens, a fire in the town of Belle Harbor swept down Marten’s block, consuming the home she and her husband purchased as newlyweds in 1995.
Now the two sisters live just a few blocks from each other in Marine Park, Brooklyn, where they have relocated with their families since the storm, having lost everything they owned.
‘‘My daughter, she’s 4, she’s had dreams where she said she misses the Breezy house,’’ said Mullaney, who is sharing a rental home with her parents, whose house was damaged by flooding in the storm. ‘‘She just thinks we’re on one big adventure. I won’t let her see what happened.’’
For Marten, it was crucial to get her children back to school as quickly as possible. Her two youngest boys, 8-year-old Matt and 10-year-old Terence, are among the storm’s many young refugees, relocated temporarily to a new school while their Roman Catholic elementary school, St. Francis de Sales, is repaired from flood damage.
Her eldest son, 15-year-old Ray, has taken refuge at the home of the assistant headmaster at his private high school. There’s simply not enough room for him at the home of Marten’s mother-in-law, where the family of six has been living in cramped quarters for weeks with one dresser drawer of donated clothing each. Ray returns home to see the family every weekend.
‘‘It’s kind of like your kid goes off to college and you don’t see him,’’ Marten said. ‘‘Not having him with me every day and every night is probably the biggest change in our lives right now. It’s hard.’’
The Martens will soon move — before Christmas, they hope — to a rental home in their old neighborhood that has room for all of them. And then they'll set about the task of rebuilding the place they called their dream home.
But Mullaney isn’t as certain that she'll return to devastated Breezy Point, the summery shorefront place she has loved all her life.
While her husband navigates the insurance paperwork, she cares for her daughter and 10-month-old twins and tries to make sense of their new reality.
‘‘Do we sell what we can and go somewhere else? Or do we stay in Breezy and rent until we can rebuild?’’ she wondered. ‘‘We’re just not sure.’’
— By Meghan Barr.
At their Norwalk, Conn., beachfront cottage, Ben and Kim Cesare reflect wearily on how, in one year, they have become experts in disaster and recovery.
Badly flooded after tropical storm Irene, they had just finished rebuilding, when Sandy crashed through their modest two-story home, flooding the basement and first floor, tearing out newly installed windows and doors, shifting walls and dumping gigantic slabs of concrete sea wall onto their backyard.Continued...