I met Carole and Sheri three days after the hurricane hit. Occupy Sandy was going from building to building knocking on doors, seeing who had stayed and what people needed. Carole and Sheri live in a twelve story building on the waterfront in Rockaway Park. In the lot outside, cars were stacked haphazardly on top of one another, broken glass and metal covered the landscape, and sand dunes reclaimed concrete. Large sections of the boardwalk had relocated midway down the block. What used to be a small patch of lawn between the building and the beach was now a graveyard of light fixtures, signposts, debris, and boardwalk . Carole and Sheri's building no longer had a door. The storm demolished many of the interior walls on the ground floor and the watermark left behind showed I would have been underwater standing at my tallest- meaning Carole and Sheri would have been too. The stairwells and hallways of the highrise are windowless. At noon, the darkness inside was overwhelming- a giant cave (and it remained that way for the nearly three weeks 'til power was restored). Many residents had left either before the storm or a day later. Some remained, unable or unwilling to leave their homes.
We started on the top floor and made our way down to the first floor where we met neighbors Carole (70 yrs old) and Sheri (in her 50s). “We are the modern day Laverne and Shirley,” they tell me. They got that right (& Carole has some Lucille Ball in her... she is a fiery, audacious redhead). Both women are strong, smart, bold, and boast irreverent and relentless sense of humors. Carole's apartment is at the center of the hallway by the stairwell and Sheri's is down the hall, on the ocean end. They met nearly 30 years ago at the elevator doors on their floor at Sheri's mom’s suggestion that she introduce herself to Carole who was new to Rockaway. The two ladies fight (they stopped speaking to each other for a few days last week)- they bicker and banter about everything, they joke-both have an offbeat humor that left me embarrassed to feel so gleeful each time I visited amidst the horrors they endured those three weeks, and they support each other. And throughout, they have shared all they had with one another. “Everything”, this is what Carole & Sheri both say today when I ask what they have meant to each other in these weeks after the storm. Sheri continues, "If it wasn't for Carole, I wouldn't have made it. She was my rock. When I got scared I would go to Carole." At one point during week two, another friend came and brought Carole to Manhattan for a few days. Sheri stayed in bed all day, waiting and wishing for Carole to come back home. The audio begins with Carole responding to my gentle prompt, "tell me a story...”. Sheri chimes in throughout. This is how they tell their stories, together.