I knew that my business friend Franklin Karp lived in Long Beach, Long Island, but it didn’t occur to me that he must have been a victim of Hurricane Sandy until I passed his name on my email contact list earlier today. I sent him an email to find out how he made out. An hour later he allowed me to interview him via telephone so I would get the scoop on what it was like being surrounded by water water everywhere but not a drop to drink.
(Watch the video below for an emotional recap of what happened in Long Beach.)
Frankin and his wife Caryl live on the sixth floor of an apartment building located just a few feet behind the Long Beach boardwalk. They have a magnificent view of the ocean. They moved to Long Beach in July of 2008 from a big house in Roslyn in order to be closer to the water. Ever since they moved to Long Beach, they feel like they are on a permanent vacation, even though they both work in Plainview for Audio Video Systems. They both grew up in the consumer electronics industry with me, so I have known them for decades. (Put on your thinking cap.) Franklin ran Harvey Electronics for 16 years and, for 19 years before that, he worked at Rabson’s on West 57th Street and at Stereo Warehouse in Brooklyn (same company).
My being an Internet addict, one of my first questions was, “How did you live without Internet?” For the next hour I received a good life lesson about what it takes when your world gets turned upside down yet you remain firmly balanced on both feet ready to deal with whatever forces come your way. “We love Long Beach and so do most of the people who live here,” commented Franklin. “I haven’t heard anyone who said they are moving away. Yes, houses were destroyed, but most want to rebuild, so it is just a question of when and how much.”
Question: “I would have been scared to death sitting next to the ocean watching it rise. What were you thinking?”
Franklin: “We were pretty calm. Everyone in the building was. Granted the building was vibrating a little but nothing to be alarmed about. It wasn’t till the next morning when we went downstairs did we know the extent of the destruction. When I saw a Nissan Pathfinder float by I realized we were in big trouble. Parts of the 2.2-mile-long boardwalk had washed several blocks away and landed by the Long island Railroad station. The majority of the sand on the beach was washed into every Long Beach Island street. Most who had first floor apartments were totally flooded, and countless homes were destroyed. Hundreds of cars were totaled. There was so much water and sand in them that they were never going to work again.”
Question: “What were the living conditions?”
Franklin: “At that point, we didn’t have electricity, water, or heat. You were not concerned about the Internet. You were concerned about the bare necessities to live. The worst part for us was to live without toilets that flush. You can live without electricity (strong flashlights), heat (gas fireplace and range), and even taking a shower every day, but you draw the line at toilets that don’t flush. There were signs in the street that basically told us all when we could flush. That is an image that will stick in my head for a long time. “Flush.” “Don’t Flush.”
Question: “What did you do at night?”
Franklin: “We had Hurricane parties. You got to know your neighbors. We had wine, great conversations, and planned for the future. Fortunately, it wasn’t that cold so it was not that uncomfortable. You learn to live with what you have. You make do. Even the people who lost everything were taking care of business. When I walked the streets, I watched people sorting though their life belongings, deciding what stays and what goes. All you can do is help them and find ways to move forward. Another tough situation was the fact that you couldn’t drive off and on the Island. If you had a car that worked, you could drive off, but the authorities would not let you drive back on. We also had a curfew. No one was allowed on the streets from 6pm to 6am. This was to prevent looting.”
Question: “What do you think you have learned from all of this?”
Franklin: “Hurricane Irene gave us a false sense of security. We thought that wasn’t so bad. In the future if the weather forecasters tell us a category two hurricane is approaching, we will get the heck out of there. Hurricane Sandy was a category one. Other than that, we learned that we still love living by the beach. I thought about why we would never leave. We are more physically active and alive. Living there is very therapeutic. My son lives in an apartment a few blocks away, and he wants to stay and so do most of the residents. This was a horrible situation, but the good years sure outweigh the bad. And yes, Lois, we are happy that we have Internet once again.”