Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

November 27, 2012

Resilience, generational style

Filed under: Catastrophes — by Dan OConnor on November 27, 2012

Last week I was able to speak with one of my cousins.  A lifelong resident of Broad Channel, New York, she and her adult children were directly impacted by Hurricane Sandy.  To be blunt, they stared down the barrel of it.  Her kids, both adult children live in Rockaway and Broad Channel as well.

Their houses were all but destroyed.

The home that is near the Shore Front Parkway had the boardwalk driven through the front of the house and flooded.  The other house was filled with upwards of six feet of water and everything inside lost to water damage.

The oldest house was stripped to its studs.

This house in particular is one of two houses that my great grandfather was able to purchase by cobbling together a down payment with a combination of glue factory, church sexton, and gambling earnings.   He was a laborer in Brooklyn at the turn of the 20th century.

The house I grew up in also had its roots planted the same way.

My great grandfather was a first generation American.  His father, my great great grandfather, survived the potato famine in Ireland and sailed across the Atlantic for 39 days in steerage.

My mother, brothers, and I went to this house every year,  every summer.  From the  late 1930s through the 21st century, we all made it there.  It was not much of a house.  It was a bungalow really and probably had no business being built, but it was a building, that became a house, that became a home.

That house has survived floods, hurricanes, fires, and a host of other meteorological activity.

But it’s still there.

Stripped to its core, it still stands, naked so to speak but not completely yielding to its challenges.  It has been in the family, this bungalow has,  for nearly a hundred years and it will not yield.

My cousin has survived losing both parents in a fire, countless hurricanes over the last 5 decades, and other calamities.  But she knows her people manage.

When we spoke, she said “I have no expectation for sympathy or assistance.  I chose to live here and this is where I am from.”

She also said, “We will make it.  What are you gonna do?  We’ll rebuild.  That’s what we do.  Uncle Larry did it, Grandma did it, my sister did it. What am I gonna do, go somewhere else?”

Tough broad, as my mother would say.

I am keenly aware how I came to be a New Yorker and then an American.

I know when and where my relatives landed in Lower Manhattan and made their way to Brooklyn.  And I know how that bungalow came to be.

The house was ravaged by the sea and still stands.  What a great metaphor for all those who did the same thing to build our Nation.

My cousin is tough as nails.  Like many who live around her, they will rebuild.

They know no other way.

Stubborn, prideful, tough … resilient.

Don’t count them out.

What are they gonna do?



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Comment by William R. Cumming

November 27, 2012 @ 1:44 am

Thanks DAN and you have given real insights into how much ownership and clinging to a piece of land and structure can imbed in the memory of all of US!

For whatever reasons, my traditions are different although I have on my walls two land grants signed by President Cleveland [or a minion] that gave “free” land to my great grandfather. For whatever reason despite that gift from the people of the US to my ancestors I believe that private property while important in the traditions of Western Civilization and even elsewhere perhaps has led US to traditions of lack of stewardship and care in ways that eventually could destroy US and our planet. Time which is endless as far as known will tell US and others whether the “fiction” of ownership of the land and the “others” that do not own “our” land results in mankind’s future survival.

Comment by Claire B. Rubin

November 27, 2012 @ 8:59 am

It occurs to me that many individual families may show resilience and decide to rebuild in locations that are questionable from an objective scientific viewpoint. And the result may be a settlement pattern that is not optimal for the community’s resilience.

Comment by Dan OConnor

November 27, 2012 @ 10:23 am


Aptly stated. You are correct in pointing out a difference between personal and community resilience. If one were to survey Breezy Point, the south shore of Long Island, or many other places for that matter, we would find exactly what you’re speaking of.

If we were to optimize for resilience sake we surely would have different population concentrations and redefining the effects of risk mitigation.

Comment by A Story to be retold....

November 27, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

This is certainly a story which needs to be retold for the fortitude, the resilience and embrace of family and community as stunning portrayals of America, the most charitable people and their Love of liberty and our beloved Republic!

While I, too have lived not too distant from the seashore roads on Cape Cod and over the many years have seen the wrath of Mother Nature and truly understand the family and community spirit, such exhuberence, rebuilding so close to the shoreline should be done so without support and insurance coverage in every attempt to persuade folks that the investment is not a worthy choice.

Hirstorically we have short memories and the great gales of the 1700’s, the 1800’s and other such storms along the eastern seaboard should be enough to deter any such building especially in these times where the economy can no longer sustain such substantial monies in assistance. If one wishes to rebuild their home nearby the waterfront, then they should as this wonderfl family be willing to cope with all the ramifications of living by the water’s edge….

Bravo! A wonderful story about a family like many who epitomize American character and hearty willingness to stand against the rising waters….Let’s hope these storms are few and far between for everyone’s sake for the challenges are many and so many are adversely affected….

Keep charging!

Christopher Tingus
PO Box 1612
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645 USA

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 27, 2012 @ 9:04 pm

There may be some technical options that are available to provide better choices than first appear in some of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and it is not simply rebuild or relocate.

I find it of interest that in both NY State and NJ the Insurance Commissioners have issued rulings that Hurricane coverage deductibles are not to apply to the damages and losses since Hurricane Sandy was not at Hurricane Wind strength even for CAT I when it made landfall. Perhaps I am incorrect but usually these deductibles are large. Insurance recoveries should if available give insureds the choice of NOT rebuilding for example. And the NFIP has long struggled with the concept of CTL [constructive total loss] a property insurance concept originally created by then STATE of NY Justice Benjamin Cardozo in the context of the 1941 mandatory NY STATE FIRE POlICY that was the basis of the original NFIP flood policy with the simple substitution of the peril of flood for the 1941’s peril of FIRE!

My point is that rather than dealing with the raw emotions of the intial damages and losses as we approach the 30 day mark, perhaps reason has a role also.

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