Sandy Hits the Rockaways from Tamara Isaac on Vimeo.
Hurricane Sandy scattered families, devastated homes and businesses, and has forever changed the landscape of the Northeastern coast, but one school community in New York City’s Rockaway Peninsula refused to give in. Jamie Haberstumpf, PS/IS 42Q’s union delegate mobilized an army of volunteers in response to Hurricane Sandy’s destructive surge through the Rockaways.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Principal Patricia Finn recalled as one of her sixth grade students asked about the reopening of their storm damaged school. “Soon” she remembers reassuring him. She recalled how he hesitated and then told her that he may not be able to return since all of his clothing was destroyed by the storm.
When school staff returned on Friday, November 2nd,, Finn shared this story with her teachers and staff. That same Friday evening, Haberstumpf who teaches fifth grade, posted a Facebook donation campaign; by Saturday, donated items were pouring into her home and by Sunday,, an army of volunteers were outside the storm damaged school stocking cafeteria tables with warm sweaters, bottled water, and other essential items.
Victoria and Allen Kitnis were on hand to help that day, “ as soon as I saw that (Facebook) post, I said to my husband, ‘this is the time when people need to help other people.” As a result of their efforts, PS/IS 42Q was immediately designated as an official Red Cross distribution center.
Finn, also a resident of the Rockaways had experienced some material losses but remained positive, “like everybody else—I had no power, no hot water, no means of communication, but at the same time I realized how blessed I really was… being able to see the outpouring of love and just the camaraderie in the community and in our school. “
Rockaway Community Advocate and former Parent Association President , Queen Makkada shared Finn’s optimism, “I’m still in Zone A…I had no power and yet I turn on my phone and get a text from my principal that says that the staff brought food and supplies. That really touched my heart.” Makkada continued, “It’s a really touching moment, it makes you feel good to understand the human spirit that transcends color.”
Parent and community member, Kathy White explains, “I basically lost everything. My two older children moved away, but I have four with me and right now we’re just struggling.” White expressed her relief for the school community’s efforts, “I thank God because we had nothing. We were running around with these clothes from day to day…”
In spite of Sandy’s destruction and devastation, White’s six-year-old daughter, Maya smiled and proudly proclaimed that she made sure to ‘finish all of her homework’ demonstrating a resilience that many Sandy survivors have in common.