Superstorm Sandy Brings One Family Closer

Superstorm Sandy Brings One Family Closer

8:26am Jan 03, 2013
The day after their neighborhood was flooded, the Hardys returned to their house to start bagging up the garbage. The contents of the fridge were spread all over the kitchen floor and even outside. There were sausages in the street. The kitchen floor was
The day after their neighborhood was flooded, the Hardys returned to their house to start bagging up the garbage. The contents of the fridge were spread all over the kitchen floor and even outside. There were sausages in the street. The kitchen floor was
Courtesy of Heather Hardy
  • The day after their neighborhood was flooded, the Hardys returned to their house to start bagging up the garbage. The contents of the fridge were spread all over the kitchen floor and even outside. There were sausages in the street. The kitchen floor was

    The day after their neighborhood was flooded, the Hardys returned to their house to start bagging up the garbage. The contents of the fridge were spread all over the kitchen floor and even outside. There were sausages in the street. The kitchen floor was

    Courtesy of Heather Hardy

  • The Hardy sisters (from left) Kaitlyn and Heather in their parents' Gerritsen Beach house.

    The Hardy sisters (from left) Kaitlyn and Heather in their parents' Gerritsen Beach house.

    Marianne McCune for NPR

  • After Sandy, the Hardys' goal was to get their house together enough to have a normal Christmas. The ornaments survived the storm. Shown here, from left, are Linda Hardy, her granddaughter Annie and her daughter Heather.

    After Sandy, the Hardys' goal was to get their house together enough to have a normal Christmas. The ornaments survived the storm. Shown here, from left, are Linda Hardy, her granddaughter Annie and her daughter Heather.

    Marianne McCune for NPR

The Hardy family goes back generations in a tiny neighborhood called Gerritsen Beach at the southern end of Brooklyn. For them, Superstorm Sandy has created something like an extended family reunion.

Their 2 1/2 bedroom house is currently just barely livable. They removed a fallen tree, replaced drywall, fixed the electricity and heat, and threw down rugs to keep the dust and mold from overwhelming them until they do the work the house really needs.

The Hardy family is more closely knit than a lot of people could stand.

"There's nothing like being 30 and single and living home with mom. Sounds great," says daughter Heather, laughing.

While they were waiting for the landlord to rebuild her last place from a fire, Heather and her 8-year-old daughter, Annie, moved into her parents' home. Her 23-year-old brother has the downstairs bedroom, and her 24-year-old sister, Kaitlyn, comes here every afternoon to watch Annie and her own son. That was the situation when Sandy hit.

"We had everybody in the family here that night thinking it would be safer here," says Heather's dad, John. And then, he says, the water started to seep in every crack.

"So me and my sister were dancing around, 'Oh, my God, water's coming in! Water's coming in!' And my mom was like, 'Get me a towel, you idiots!' " says Heather.

"It went from no water in the house to our knees in a matter of three minutes," says John.

John had recently injured his back. "My son is 6-foot-4, my nephew is 6-foot-4; [they] had to pick me up and pass me out the window, along with all our grandkids," he says.

In the days that followed, things happened in the emotional life of this family. The father of Kaitlyn's 2-year-old showed up every day to help. The two were trying to work things out, but her parents were wary.

"I don't think they would have given him as open of a chance as they did because he helped them so much," says Kaitlyn. "He cut the tree down, he put walls up, he carried things for Daddy, he did everything that he was asked to do."

Her mom, Linda, agrees. "We got to see the side of him that he wanted us to see," she says.

Heather is the oldest of the Hardy siblings. She's a professional boxer, but makes her living as a trainer. Post-Sandy, she says, she feels more stuck than ever.

"There's nothing in Gerritsen Beach to rent after Sandy because everybody's looking. There's so much competition. Nobody wants to rent to a single mom anyway," says Heather.

Heather worries about her daughter, Annie. "She's 8, and everybody needs their own personal place. My kid doesn't have that where she can come home from school and go to her room. I don't have anything to give her. That's super hard. It makes me really worried," she says.

Annie says she's fine with no room. "I really don't mind," she says.

"What about when we had our own apartment — you miss that?" Heather asks her daughter.

"A little," says Annie.

Heather says that if it was up to her mother, the family would all just stay at the house. "She's like, 'Oh, we need to rebuild. Let's just put on eight more bedrooms so that no one ever has to leave,' " Heather says.

Indeed, her mother has plans to build bigger. "We're going to put space aside for the two of them so Annie will have her own space, [and] Heather can have some privacy," she says.

Copyright 2015 WNYC Radio. To see more, visit http://www.wnyc.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On a Thursday it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. As a new Congress convenes today, John Boehner is hoping to keep his job as House Speaker - that despite a lot of criticism. Some of it erupted after the House shelved a Hurricane Sandy relief bill in the waning minutes of the last Congress. Boehner says the House will vote on a relief bill by January 15.

Two months after the storm, many families are still struggling. In Gerritsen Beach, a small neighborhood at the southern end of Brooklyn, the Hardy family is getting accustomed to some very tight quarters. Here's Marianne McCune from member station WNYC.

MARIANNE MCCUNE, BYLINE: The Hardy's house is currently just barely livable.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Aunt Heather's home.

(SOUNDBITE OF YELLING CHILD)

MCCUNE: They removed a fallen tree, replaced drywall, fixed the electricity and heat, and threw down rugs to keep the dust and mold from overwhelming them until they do the work the house really needs. Thirty-year old Heather Hardy is sort of glad to have a place to come home to.

HEATHER HARDY: There's nothing like being 30 and single and living home with mom. Sounds great.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCUNE: The Hardy family is closer knit than a lot of people could stand.

HARDY: Before the flood even happened, me and my daughter were kind of homeless. We were at a party here at my mom's house and one of my cousins came in and was like, Heather, your house is on fire.

MCCUNE: While they were waiting for the landlord to rebuild that place, she and her eight-year-old daughter Annie moved into her parents' two-and-a-half bedroom house. Her 23-year-old brother has the downstairs bedroom and her 24-year-old sister Kaitlyn comes here every afternoon to watch Annie and her own son. That was the situation when Sandy hit.

JOHN HARDY: We had everybody in the family here that night thinking it would be safer here.

MCCUNE: And then, Heather's dad says, the water started to seep in every crack.

HARDY: So me and my sister were dancing around, oh my God, water's coming in. Water's coming in. And my mom was like, get me a towel, you idiot.

HARDY: It went from no water in the house to our knees in a matter three minutes.

MCCUNE: John had recently injured his back.

HARDY: My son, who's 6'4", my nephew who's 6'4", had to pick me up and pass me out the window, along with all our grandkids.

ANNIE HARDY: Uncle Guy and Uncle Eric bumped my head on the window.

HARDY: Were you scared?

HARDY: A little. The only person I heard screaming was you. Get the door shut!

MCCUNE: In the days that followed, things happened in the emotional life of this family. First, the father of Kaitlyn's two-year-old boy showed up to help. Every day. And this is a guy who, over the summer, got drunk and beat up a neighbor. The family says he's also hit Kaitlyn. He was in rehab and she was trying to work things out again. But her parents were wary.

KAITLYN HARDY: I don't think they would have given him as open of a chance as they did because he helped them so much. He cut the tree down, he put walls up, he carried things for Daddy, he did everything that he was asked to do.

MOTHER: And she's right. We got to see the side of him that he wanted us to see.

HARDY: And the reason why I go back to him all the time and don't just leave like everybody tells me to.

MCCUNE: Heather is the oldest of the Hardy siblings. She's a professional boxer, but makes her living as a trainer. And she says post-Sandy she feels more stuck than ever.

HARDY: There's nothing in Gerritsen Beach to rent after Sandy. Because everybody's looking, there's so much competition. Nobody wants to rent to a single mom anyway, you know?

MCCUNE: Heather worries about her daughter Annie.

HARDY: You know, she's eight and everybody needs their own personal space. You know, my kid doesn't have that where she can come home from school and go to her room. I don't have anything to give her. That's super hard. It makes me really worried.

HARDY: Tie me up!

MCCUNE: Annie says she's fine with no room.

HARDY: I really don't mind.

MCCUNE: What about when we had our own apartment - you miss that?

HARDY: A little.

HARDY: If it was up to my mother, we'd all just stay in the house always. She's like, oh, we need to rebuild? OK. Let's just put on eight more bedrooms so that no one ever has to leave.

MCCUNE: Are you going to build bigger?

MOTHER: We are. We're going to put space aside for the two of them so Annie'll have her own space, Heather can have some privacy.

MCCUNE: One family in Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn brought even closer together by Sandy - for better or worse. For NPR News, I'm Marianne McCune. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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