Photo: Five-year old Angely Fabian plays in her new Coney Island home (Photo by Michael de Vulpillieres, American Red Cross)
Superstorm Sandy displaced thousands of families across New York, leaving many to live indefinitely with family members or in cramped hotel rooms, amplifying their stress about the future. Yet thanks to the American Red Cross many, like the Fabian family from Coney Island, have found new hope.
“The Red Cross was the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Eladio Fabian, shortly after moving his family into a new apartment with help from the Red Cross Move-in-Assistance Program.
The program helps Sandy victims move out of temporary lodging and into new, permanent homes.
“Before connecting with the Red Cross, we had no options," he said.
Eighteen years ago, when Eladio arrived to New York from Mexico, his first home was a two-bedroom apartment on Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island, Brooklyn. Here, he established a life for himself, his wife, Maribel, and their three children, Marleny, 9, Angely, 5, and Eddy, 3. With Maribel expecting their fourth, it was in this home he assumed they would welcome their newborn.
Superstorm Sandy changed all that.
Their home was completely destroyed the night Sandy made landfall when floodwaters poured into their ground-level apartment. With time only to grab documents like the children’s birth certificates, they waded through waist-high water to escape, eventually making their way to Maribel’s mother’s apartment, a 30-minute drive away.
“We were terrified,” recalled Maribel, “particularly the children. Everything was lost."
The next four months were particularly challenging for the entire family.
“We stayed with my mother,” said Maribel. “Fifteen of us in a small two-bedroom apartment.”
Shortly after Sandy, Maribel gave birth prematurely. Unfortunately, there were complications and baby Melvin has been hospitalized since. Adding to an already stressful situation, doctors would not allow the family to bring Melvin into such crowded living conditions.
Eladio tried desperately to secure a new apartment; his large family and depleted savings as a result of the storm made this nearly impossible.
"Then someone I knew recommended that I reach out to the Red Cross,” he said.
Shortly after connecting with the Red Cross, the Fabians found a new place just blocks from their old Coney Island home. The Red Cross provided the family with the security deposit, first month’s rent as well as funds for a few basic items of furniture. They moved in a few weeks ago.
Today, although many challenges lie ahead, the Fabians are comforted by the sounds of their children’s laughter that echo through their sparse apartment as well as the reassurance that their newborn will have a safe place to stay when he is ready to come home.
“Without the Red Cross we wouldn’t be able to live together as a family,” said Eladio.