Liz Brown had two go-bags lined up on her futon, and more than 100 towels on hand to sop up water — but the Sheepshead Bay resident says nothing prepared her for the vicious backlash that left her and her son homeless in the catastrophic aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
“Basically every single thing I own is gone,” said Brown who planned to ride out the storm by battening down the hatches in her soundproof basement apartment on Margaret Court, a storybook enclave of dainty homes off E. 13th Street and Avenue Y — and a community where evacuation was mandatory.
“Our plan was to stay and run the wet-vac,” says the single parent who felt her home was less vulnerable to damage because it was the first one on the sloping cul-de-sac.
“We felt we could battle most of the water because that’s how we got through Hurricane Irene,” she adds.
The telemarketer spent the best part of Sunday moving her belongings to higher ground.
“I put my photo albums on high, high shelves,” she says.
The following evening, at around 6:30 pm, Brown went to fetch a drink from the kitchen and discovered water creeping soundlessly across the floor. She opened her front door and saw water seeping in from the sewer through the wall in the hallway.
Brown wasn’t worried.
“As long as I had power, I felt I could prevent any real damage from coming into my apartment,” says the woman who was immediately blinded by a power cut as she tried to switch on the water vacuum.
Within moments, her brother called from a block away to inform her that water was gushing along E. 13th Street.
Brown and her son wasted no time dashing out the front door to escape the relentless onslaught that would claim dozens of lives, and cause billions in property damage and lost services in the days to come.
“We had our flashlights, we put on our shoes, and I reached into the drawer and grabbed dozens of pairs of clean, dry socks,” she says. “We took only one of the go-bags because they were heavy.”
The pair headed to the safety of her mother’s home nine blocks away, wading through ankle-deep water in howling gales while dodging flying tree limbs, a garbage pail lid hurtling through the air, and downed power lines under a train trestle.
“Walk on the other side of the street for God’s sake!” Brown yelled out to a group of pedestrians walking perilously close to the fallen cables.
She says she breathed a sigh of relief when Avenue X appeared in view. It was the beginning of the high-ground, and minutes away from her mother’s home.
Brown returned to Margaret Court the following afternoon, along the way encountering unforgettable images of the surge’s devastation — a soda machine blocking E. 14th Street past Avenue Z, and news racks and corner news boxes forming islands in the rising puddles.
Inside her apartment, she found her futon floating in three feet of water.“There was water and destruction everywhere,” says Brown. “Six-foot tall ceiling, five-foot tall water, I was holding out very little hope for anything in that one feet of space that might be salvageable.”
Her son — a musician who celebrated his 20th birthday last week, and plays with a band ironically named “As Judgement Day Approaches” — is having a tough time coping with the catastrophe, says Brown.
“He lost $10,000 worth of music equipment that took him years to accumulate.”
The grave losses are calculable for the hardy Brooklynite who says she refuses to cry over the loss of material objects.
“In the end it’s just stuff,” she says. “I’ve lost my father, my cousin died in 9-11, another cousin died of cancer, these are the things that are horrible, these are the things that are tragedies.”
The subject’s name has been changed at her request to preserve anonymity.