Alec McFeeley’s “Enhanced Essay” is attached to this email.Imagine most of your life literally being washed away in one evening. The lives my mother and me were changed forever on October 29, 2012, when Hurricane Sandy hit the Rockaway, New York shores and we were forced to rebuild our lives from the beginning. My mom and I had to swim out of our house with our dog, Harry, clinging to my back as raging waters enveloped our home destroying everything in it and temporarily crushing my mother’s fearlessness. This storm took much more than just our physical possessions; we lost our stability, our sense of safety, our home, and most of all, my childhood.
Despite the loss of power hours earlier that evening, we were quietly reading by candlelight when in an instant our house was enveloped by water that continued to pour in from every crevice. Within minutes, the raging waters in our home were waist deep and left my stunned mother futilely grabbing paper towels. When a neighbor pounded on our door, the reality of this disaster began to sink in. We held hands and swam towards higher ground. The only possessions left to our names were the clothes on our backs; I in my high school gym shorts and t-shirt and my mother in pajamas. Within 30 minutes, 14 people and three dogs were rescued on our block and placed safely in a home that stood six feet above street level. We dried ourselves off, borrowed clothes and waited… for the storm to pass, for the water to recede, for information and help to arrive.
My mother and I are incredibly close. We share a special bond because we are both only children. The two of us live alone together and are accustomed to enduring obstacles, but losing our home was something we could never have imagined. Although things have never been easy for us, my mother and I are independent souls and have learned to be strong and resilient. Hurricane Sandy changed everything about our lives because we had to rely on people to donate clothes to us, to house us, and to advocate for us. Most importantly, we leaned on our close network of friends to shoulder our emotional pain while we began to heal from this trauma.
I was a freshman in high school when the hurricane destroyed my entire neighborhood, including my home. I had just started a new school and I planned on investing all of my energy into studying, taking challenging classes, and making new friends. The storm turned my life upside down, and I now had to adjust to what felt like an infinite number of variables. Despite the fact that my mother and I faced so many challenges, I was able to accept our new reality and begin anew, but starting over proved to be much harder for my mom. My perseverance and ability to forge ahead inspired my mother’s recovery. The fact that we were displaced from our home for one year and separated from our dog for 53 days was not something that stopped me from moving forward. None of our physical possessions were salvageable; we had to start over.
Despite all of this, I am thankful for the hurricane because it shaped who I have become. My ability to recover was the most integral part of my mother’s healing, and thanks to her unwavering love and support, I was able to flourish in spite of this devastating loss. Although I faced multiple adversities during my freshman year, I arrived on time, attended school every day, and earned a 3.9 GPA. It was also during this difficult time, that I was named Midwood High School’s Baseball Rookie of the Year. I know that this will not be the last major challenge in my life, but being a survivor has taught me that I can succeed even through the darkest of times.
Insurance is important to me because it enabled my mother and me to “go back home.” My house is not the same as it was before Hurricane Sandy, but it is familiar and comfortable and we are safe and together. My mother’s foresight and vigilance in having flood insurance left us in a better position than those neighbors who did not plan ahead; and for that we are both grateful.
Surviving a natural disaster is overwhelming. Knowing that we had flood insurance eased a bit of the fear of the unknown. My mother did not know that it would be a full time job fighting for insurance money that was rightfully owed to her as a flood insurance policy holder. Her tenacity and perseverance paid off. Additionally, along the way she worked with her insurance agent who truly went the extra mile. He was a devoted advocate and was willing to make phone calls to get insurance money released on our behalf. The agent was a source of strength and guidance and continually reminded us that with patience we would be able to rebuild repair and return home. And nearly a year after Hurricane Sandy, that is exactly what we did; thanks to the insurance.
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