Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


This story is just so, so sad:

Remember Forgottenville.
That’s the name even residents of Tottenville proudly call their hamlet at the furthest end of Staten Island, beyond the strip malls and the McMansions, past forests that go on for miles to the edge of Raritan Bay, where people still ride horses to the store, and a worker can commune with the sea in his own bungalow, yet still be in New York City.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the nickname has resonated with cruel irony.
“We have not been helped by the government here at all, and the Red Cross just brought water and cookies,” said Jamie McCue, whose relatives lost their home to waist-deep floodwaters. “But in Tottenville, we’re close. We help ourselves.”
Michael and Traci Abruzzo’s home was completely washed away. Worse, they’d lost best friends across the street. They’d recovered from damage after the 2010 nor’easter. They’d recovered after Hurricane Irene. But this time, they didn’t think they could stay.
“My husband had done everything Monday morning — he siliconed our doorways and windows so they were sealed tight,” said Traci Abruzzo, a pretty blonde. “We evacuated with our two daughters. Our neighbors, the Dresches, stayed and, when the storm hit, Pat started calling me. ‘The big tree in front of your house is down! It’s just gone! And my apple tree is gone!’ she said. She called again and said, ‘Now there’s no power.’ Then she called and said, ‘The water is up to the last step of our house! A hot water tank just floated by!’ She was scared. It was the last time I talked with her.” 

Abruzzo started to cry. “I couldn’t get in touch with her. That wasn’t like her character. I got really worried, but I fell asleep and then at 1 o’clock in the morning, another neighbor called. She said, ‘Your house is completely gone. Only the slab is there. And we can’t find Pat, George, and Angela’ (the Dresches’ 13-year-old child).”
Abruzzo kept the news to herself through the night. “I didn’t want to wake my husband up and tell him our whole life was gone,” she told the Daily News. “I was afraid he would have a heart attack.”
In the morning, another neighbor called and said, “Pat is in the hospital. But George and Angela didn’t make it.”
The Rev. Francis Dias, the pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians Church, where Abruzzo works and where her daughters, Olivia, 8, and Faith, 6, go to school, said, “They didn’t want to go because they were looted after Hurricane Irene. But then the water came up. The house shook, and it fell apart. Pat could hear their voices crying for help in the dark, but she didn’t know where they were.”
The parish is trying to raise money for the two funerals, and to help the five families whose homes were carried away.
The Abruzzos lost everything. “I just brought two bags of clothes, because I thought it would be like Irene and we would just have to clean up the first floor,” Traci Abruzzo said.
They have no furniture, no pots or pans, shoes or clothes. Her complete collection of Barbie dolls back to the 1960s is gone. Olivia’s American Girl doll was found, dirty and injured, and the child has written to the company to ask if she can be admitted to its hospital.
“The main thing is, we’re alive,” Abruzzo said, and cried again. “But the next day after the hurricane, my husband said, ‘We can’t stay here anymore.’”
But as much as waters can rise up, people can, too. Especially in a place like Tottenville. And the people brought soup, and food, and muscle. 
“I couldn’t believe it,” Michael Abruzzo said. “Friends and neighbors came, but also people I’d seen in the store or the sidewalk but who I didn’t really know, came, and they were digging in this foul-smelling muck to help us find stuff. They found pictures of our kids, which is the most important thing. Even teenagers came and were digging. Where are you going to find a community like that?”
In Forgottenville, that’s where.
“We’re staying,” Abruzzo proclaimed, and he managed a smile. “But we’re moving to higher ground.”

Just heartbreaking.

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