Sandy – A year later

Hi there

I’m the flood insurance money for which you have been paying my company for. Yes YOU, victims of sandy, you have been paying towards the flood insurance.

I never thought your tiny monthly payments, your hard earned money would yield a lump sum of 35K – am happy to finally know my real worth. I’m ready to help fix your house now. Oh wait, why am I being sent to the mortgage bank. I’ve been sitting with the insurance company all along and now I’ve to wait at the mortgage company. Hopefully it shouldn’t be bad for I’m told that the contractor would get the money as soon the construction is done and all YOU need to do is show the receipts. Easy enough.

A month later

Knock, knock on the victims door – who is it? asks the victim. It’s me YOUR insurance money, why haven’t you used me yet. What, really, the contractor wants the money first and only then the construction will begin. I also heard that fed announced 52 billion dollars towards sandy relief. Wasn’t this money meant for the construction companies, so how come they are still waiting on me. YOU know something I’m really disappointed.

After waiting for such a long time to be used, to help someone in need, to build the dreams that were shattered, looks like I’ve to settle for just earning more interest for the insurance company and/or the bank – just like old times where disasters were never about people and their recovery it was more about scams and more scams and more scams.

And I also heard YOUR house is up for foreclosure because you haven’t paid YOUR mortgage. So this is it then, good bye to YOU – this is your insurance money, until the next disaster.

Awaiting to be claimed
YOUR insurance money

The damage caused by sandy was there for everyone to see. What was not evident was that it separated the people from their neighborhood, from their normal life and worst even separated from their family members. But on the flip side, it almost got the republicans and the democrats together and most definitely got the contractors, the banks, the insurance companies together to form this complex web where money can come in but can’t go out i.e. it can’t go out to the victims.

So the victims continue to live in temporary accommodations such as apartments, relatives, friends etc. I’m not saying there hasn’t been any recovery. There has been recovery, like the board walks at the sandy hook beach or the Coney Island Ferris wheel or and other such visible landmarks, all of them were probably recovered. But deep inside Rockaway, breezy point and to some extent even Coney Island, there are houses that are still without proper flooring, without electricity, without heating and without any monetary help from the fed or the city of New York.

What can you and I do?

I cannot forget the day sandy struck. It’s the day when thousands of lives were changed forever. I called Sesh on the eve of one year anniversary and find out if he had gone back to work or continuing to help victims get back to their lives and how the overall situation was. And to my surprise Sesh was still out there on the field, as a matter of fact, he was at breezy point when I called him.

Sesh, along with his wife Devi, had been relentless. For the past one year, be it weekday or weekend, rain or shine, summer or winter, he would be out there working with volunteers, the habitat for humanity in coordinating and most of the times leading the recovery efforts.

At a time when we can’t seem to find time to fix the potholes on the very road we travel on, Sesh, had gone out of his way to help the sandy victims who are complete strangers.

As for me, I will try to go there one the weekends and will hopefully try to do so at least once a month. And hopefully my friends will come along with me just as they always do – it’s not much but we could help at least one family at a time. One thing is clear, it doesn’t matter whether it’s India or the US, unless the people come forward to take care of each other and take collective responsibility, disasters will continue to be simply moneymaking ventures.

Below are some of the stories from the ground and the pictures from the past where my friends and I were part of the team led by Sesh


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