Voices from the Storm

Here, we share a series of essays highlighting personal experiences during mega-storm Sandy. Weather affects all coastal dwellers each year--but beach people remain a resilient crew, no matter how tumultuous the sea. We think you'll be cheered, comforted, and enlightened by their words and their distinct perspectives. We also encourage you to help with the Sandy relief efforts by contributing at redcross.org.

A Life Vest of Our Own

A family’s hope is restored after making a moving discovery.

Hirten Family

The Hirtens endured Hurricane Sandy and are in the process of rebuilding their Long Island home. Below, the life jacket painting; the home's damage; and the view pre-Sandy.

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Hirten Painting
Hirten Home Damage
Hirten View

  • Hurricane Sandy aftermath in New Jersey and New York

    Share Your Story

    We’re committed to continuing to tell the stories of those affected by Hurricane Sandy. If you'd like to contribute, please share your personal story and photos. We want to know how you were impacted, what you learned, and what has given you hope.

Last year, our Voices from the Storm series shared personal experiences during mega-storm Sandy. A year later, we heard from families who are still recovering from the storm, but are finding threads of hope in amazing places. 

Story by Kimberly Hirten

My name is Kimberly Hirten, and I am 22 years old. We live on the south shore of Long Island on the Great South Bay. A year ago, Hurricane Sandy devastated our neighborhood, and we lost our home and many of our belongings. Last winter, we were forced to tear down the home we loved so dearly, but are now looking forward to moving back into a new coastal-inspired home!

As the anniversary of the storm approaches, we begin to relive the many difficulties and struggles that our family encountered this time last year. My sister is an artist, and she lost many of her paintings to Sandy’s destruction.

Today, we are still displaced and awaiting the day we can move home. Some days it feels like we will never move back to the neighborhood again, and the light of hope appears dim. There are times when we lose our patience, and there are times when we look for something to hold on to; something to give us hope.

A few weekends ago, we found it. My father began to clean out the water behind our house, removing objects like wood and glass, plates, and even rolls of sod. He began to remove a large piece of plywood from the water. As he turned over the large piece of wood, soaked and covered in algae and muck from the bay, he realized that it was actually a painting. It was my sister’s painting.

When I recognized what he was dragging from the water, I got chills. Her painting had survived in the water for almost a year sustaining little damage. The painting features a life vest floating in water. This discovery is what keeps us holding on when we feel like we can no longer float. It helps my family remember that there is always hope to hold onto even in the hardest of times. It is this hope that we cling to in the road to rebuilding, a life vest of our own.


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