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The Free Republic of the Rockaways


“Ordered?” she yelled. “What order?” Then, for reasons not completely clear, someone, perhaps the lady herself, started screaming, “How do you spell ‘Schenectady’? How do you spell ‘Schenectady’?” Eventually, the lady got into an ambulance from South Carolina. It was a little after ten, the ocean was pounding, as the Internet connection on my phone kicked in momentarily. Romney was winning, 157 to 148.

When Day Ten of Sandy Time dawned, Obama had won, which was a relief. The Republicans, some of them anyway, were still blaming the storm, as if Romney hadn’t really said it was immoral to give his precious money to help those suffering because of acts God keeps coming up with. Out in Rockaway, it seemed as if the weatherman, the other joker in the room, was right yet again. He said snow, and by mid-afternoon, it was coming down, thick, wet, and white. “Fucked up outside,” said one patron of the liquor store on Beach Channel Drive across the street from the Redfern projects in Far Rock. Even as the entire area shut down, the liquor store had remained open throughout the duration, dispensing flavored Georgi vodka and Twisted Shotz Hot Licks Bourbon and Cinnamon through its bulletproof-Plexiglas surround.

Up the beach, life, such as it was, went on as well. Mike Moran had some FDNY buddies over to try to fix his boiler. During the storm, his basement had water to the ceiling, said Moran, an impressively large man who retains ultimate respect for declaring at a Madison Square Garden memorial following 9/11 that Osama bin Laden could “kiss my royal Irish ass.” “Live through this, that’s what I tell myself,” Moran said, adding that the memorial he built for his brother killed at the World Trade Center was now “somewhere under the boardwalk.”

This was how it was on Day Ten. Over at Beach 130th, where fire had burned down most of the block, snow was covering the debris, if you want to call a fried Porsche Boxster debris. Everyone was still talking about how on Day One, FDNY lieutenant Tommy Woods saved his mother’s life by tying her to a surfboard. It is one of the stories that will become lore when Sandy Time is finally over, as will the tale of the guy who jumped out a second-story window when the surge came in, caught a wave, and wound up on the porch of the Sisters of St. Joseph convent, where the nuns took him in. As for now, it was a smear of horizontal snow, low visibility. In this light, the whiteness covering everything, you could even say it looked innocent, for a moment.


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