AMESBURY — The destruction wrought on the New York area by Hurricane Sandy has become a rallying cry for the Amesbury High School Class of 1962.
One of the class members was hit hard by the devastation wreaked on Breezy Point, N.Y., and now her classmates, who just celebrated their 50th reunion, are finding a new reason to reconnect and come together as a group.
Joan Boudreault grew up in Amesbury, and like many of her classmates, moved away as career and life offered new opportunities. She has lived in New York’s Breezy Point for years, a desirable seaside neighborhood that offers breathtaking views of New York City’s Lower Bay.
But in the scope of the past two weeks, Breezy Point has become known for something else in the nation’s eyes. It is the dramatic focalpoint of the devastation left in the wake of Sandy, a town that was hammered by both fire and flood.
Over 110 buildings were lost in an uncontrollable blaze that was fed by the hurricane’s strong winds. An entire neighborhood was utterly destroyed.
Boudreault’s home is about a mile from that devastated area, but her neighborhood faced its own onslaught — hurricane-driven tides that flooded at least 80 seaside homes, among them Boudreault’s. She also lost her car in the flood.
A local official was quoted in a New York media report saying, “In Breezy Point, whatever is not flooded is on fire.”
The town sits on the exposed tip of a Long Island barrier beach, at the mouth of Jamaica Bay, which laps at the shoreline of John F. Kennedy International Airport.
In the days since the hurricane, classmates have been able to make sporadic contact with Boudreault. Her home is not inhabitable, and she has been staying at a shelter at Queen’s College, according to Jerri Roy Girman, a classmate who now lives on the shoreline of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin.
“She was hit really, really hard,” said Girman.
In emails, Boudreault has detailed what happened -- her home was filled with mud and sludge, ruining furniture and walls. The basement still had water in it almost two weeks after the hurricane flood had receded, and she was fearful to find out what damage lurked down there. She also does not have flood insurance. Little help of real use to flood victims is available, despite the influx of emergency response agencies that have come into the area.
Though Boudreault hasn’t asked for help directly, her classmates have reached out and taken their own initiative. Girman sent an email to classmates, and others have set up contacts through social media such as Facebook.
“We’ve already gotten a tremendous response,” she said. Some have sent money, and some who live near New York City have offered to let Boudreault stay in their homes. Others still have sent notes of encouragement and prayers.
Girman suggested that Amesbury residents who want to help out can send inquiries to her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write directly to Boudreault at 1 Beach 221 Street, Breezy Point, NY 11697.