In Sandy's Aftermath, Rockaway Beach Native Finds Hometown Spirit in Middletown
After Hurricane Sandy destroyed his hometown of Rockaway Beach, N.Y., Middletown resident Matt O'Hagan learned he is not far from home at all.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a Middletown resident learned that community is not about where you live, but about who lives around you.
On Tuesday, Middletown resident Bill Metraud watched the news of Hurricane Sandy’s annihilation of Rockaway Beach, N.Y., which unexpectedly met a storm surge that nearly wiped the peninsula off the map. One hundred and ten homes burned to the ground and supplies were already running short.
He recalled Rockaway Beach was the hometown of his neighbor, Matt O’Hagan, and gave him a call.
O’Hagan’s last communication with his family was chilling texts such as “everyone is trapped” and “pray for us.” O’Hagan told Metraud he was going to drive down to check on his family.
“I’m going to go down there with you,” his neighbor responded without hesitation. “Those people need our help. Let’s pack up my truck with supplies.”
The two men immediately loaded the truck up with food, supplies and a generator and made the 200 mile journey to New York.
O’Hagan said he his hometown is in ruin. Every house was flooded from the basement up to three feet on the first floor.
“Couches were floating in their living rooms,” said O’Hagan. “The town is absolutely devastated.”
Outside of the Red Cross, there was very little assistance and FEMA was not there, he said. Residents have been told it would be several weeks before power could be restored.
The two neighbors dropped off supplies, picked up O’Hagan’s mother and brought her back to Middletown.
O'Hagan said his neighbor's unsolicited help was a sentimental reminder of his neighbors back in his tight-knit hometown.
“It really meant something to me,” he said.
Rockaway Beach has been through more than their fair share of tragedy. The small town lost 96 lives during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks; O’Hagan lost 19 friends. Two months later, a plane crashed into a house in the town.
He said the children are raised to help their neighbors. "It's in our blood," explained O'Hagan.
Back in Middletown, O’Hagan sent an email to ten of his friends with a request to borrow a generator. They plan on driving back down on Saturday with more supplies.
“Within an hour, I got three responses with three generators and one friend is going to follow us down there so I can leave a car,” he said, moved by the support.
The storm washed away most of the cars, which makes crossing the bridge for supplies nearly impossible.
In the midst of the devastation to his hometown, O’Hagan found a bit of Rockaway Beach right here in Middletown.
“It’s nice to know that I’m not that far from my roots,” he said.