Some of the things we learned in the storm and its aftermath, we already knew, but apparently weren’t in any hurry to acknowledge. Like the fact that the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant is in bad shape. The flooding during Sandy shut it down and forced sewage to back up into people’s homes. The plant is an environmental disaster no longer waiting to happen, as we saw with the release of millions of gallons of untreated sewage. We learned that it had gone without repairs and updates for too long, and now, as a result, it needs millions of dollars’ worth of work, and fast.
Perhaps the most gratifying thing we learned — or were reminded that we already knew — was just how skillful and selfless our first responders — firefighters, police and EMTs — really are. Those of us who had no more than a vague sense of their value to our communities now fully understand that value. It wasn’t just people whose homes took on water or caught fire who were being helped; it was entire communities. The death toll from the storm would have been much higher if not for the courageous efforts of our emergency responders.
With all these lessons learned, we’ll be more fully prepared when the next major storm hits. And we’ll face it together, confidently. Sandy showed us our strength, our compassion, our courage and our resilience. We helped one another, and will continue to do so. And eventually, whether it’s six months or six years from now, we will pronounce ourselves fully recovered from this historic storm. The lesson that looms above all others is that not even the catastrophic destruction of a hurricane, striking like a punch from God, can keep Long Islanders down.