Always at this time of the year, I will think back on the days this winter when I’d race to see our house after school but the dark would arrive first.
I hobble around the uneven construction site, shining my keychain flashlight on walls and through partitions, searching for any sign of progress to get me through the long night. A flash of metal, a framing, anything at all. I make stuff up: Was that there? I don’t recall that beam at all. Maybe it’s new. Yes, now I am one beam closer.
I pick up the mail and head to the apartment, opening Christmas cards at the stoplights. The smiling children of friends console me.
Passing through the half-built town, somehow there are more Christmas lights than ever. It seems as though West Long Beach is practicing that useful trick: smile till you mean it. Between the cheerful lights lie the dark spoils of Hurricane Sandy. Abandoned old shells. Holes in the ground, where houses once were lighted. Unfinished skeletons like ours, huddled in the night, waiting for flesh and life.
I arrive at our basement studio, dark wrapped in dark, and check my Facebook group, Sandy Victims Fighting FEMA, for any news. Whole families are about to fall into the situation we’ve been in since last March: FEMA will begin denying them rental assistance. I liked to think that perhaps they were getting it this long because of the children. I liked to think that it was some form of mercy. But now I know.
It took about the same amount of time as the human gestation period for our government to expel the children. The homes they’ve always known, wet husks of hope last Christmas, are distant, dried-up memories now.
Their parents will try to pass off their holiday tears as joyful ones. But the children know. They hear the cries long into the night, the fights with FEMA, the tearful conversations with New York Rising caseworkers (please save our babies), the begging of charities.
This Christmas morning, thousands of displaced parents will smile like they mean it, for their children.
Please help get them home.
Email people in power.
Join the protest at 1:00 in Freeport, Long Island, in front of the NY Rising office at 147 W. Merrick Rd.
Help save these families from financial ruin.
Thank you for your support always, and may these darkest days be filled with light!