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 a mess of muddy puddles.
The Hardy sisters (from left) Kaitlyn and Heather in their parents' Gerritsen Beach house.
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.
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.