From Hurricane Sandy to Sandy Hook

Bay Park 'pay it forward' playground completed


Hurricane Sandy took many things with her — but she couldn’t steal the spirit of the residents of the hard-hit community of Bay Park. Last weekend, with help from an army of “angels,” the community healed a little bit more when the Sandy Ground Project: Where Angels Play, a “pay it forward” organization, came to East Rockaway to help build a new playground for the children of the community.

The new playground replaces the one Sandy destroyed in 2012 at the civic association’s bayside headquarters on East Cooke Street. The playground was named after and dedicated to 6-year-old Noah Pozner, the youngest victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., a month and a half after the hurricane.

Noah’s mother, Veronique, his father, Lenny, and his sisters Sophia and his twin Arielle traveled from Florida to attend the dedication ceremony last Sunday. “I was angry and despairing,” Veronique said of her son’s death. “The loss was unimaginable … but I’ve come to slowly realize, as I peel away the layers of grief, that he really is here, and that our mission now is to live life for him. Through us, he remains here on this earthly plane — and what better way to honor him than with the laughter and kinetic energy of childhood play?”

Veronique added that Noah loved playgrounds, and being “the master of his own, safe child-sized universe.” “We thank each and every one of you for putting healing power back in our lives,” she added, “and for the many hours of play it will give children for many years to come.”

The Sandy Ground Project

The project was established by members of the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, with the intention of building 26 playgrounds along the coast of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut in towns that were hit by the storm 21 months ago. The new playgrounds will honor the memory of the 20 children and six teachers who were killed by 20-year-old Adam Lanza on Dec. 14, 2012. The Bay Park location was the 25th one chosen.

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