Count on an Army man to barrel through devastation and come up optimistic.
Ocean waves, turned violent by Sandy, pushed a house onto Thomas Sullivan’s home last year, causing it to “twist and buckle” off its foundation until it was eventually torn down.
“It was my summer house and my winter, spring and fall house,” he said. “It was our home.”
Sullivan and his family are still displaced after losing their Beach 219th Street home of 12 years. But the man who has served more than 20 years in the reserves is marching them forward.
“Life has to go on. We have to go to work. We have to get the kids to school,” Sullivan said. “Life got a little more stressful, a little more challenging. But if we could be in a home after two years, I think it’s not the worst thing in the world.”
Before the storm hit, Sullivan, 42, sent his wife and three kids away from the coast to Levittown, Long Island. He chose to brave Sandy in his parents’ house in Breezy, which is farther from the ocean.
“I stayed for Irene, and I got a false sense that it wasn’t that bad,” he said. “Seeing the house next to my parents come down and seeing the damage throughout the night as it was happening, and the fires, I was expecting the worst.”
Sullivan was able to recover some photographs and jewelry from his house but had to deliver the dreaded news to his family: “There is no coming back to Breezy Point.”
“The kids had a big sleepover at their cousins’. They were having fun,” he said. “It was very sobering news to my wife to hear.”
Sullivan’s three kids — a pair of 11-year-old twin boys and an 8-year-old girl — “lost everything” and had to temporarily enroll in a new school in Levittown.
The youngsters proved as resilient as their hero dad, who served 13 months in Iraq and escaped from the 96th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11.
Sullivan said they made friends and had a “positive impact on their classrooms” as one of the few displaced students there.
Now the family is back in Breezy, living with Sullivan’s parents and submitting rebuilding plans to the city.
“I didn’t know if we would be able to come back,” he said. “I thought we were going to have to sell our plot.”
Sullivan said “the beautiful environment” he loves about seaside Breezy Point was the same one that turned on him. Still, he said he could not see his family growing up anywhere else.
“It’s spotless, it’s pristine. There are pretty dunes, and it’s extremely safe here,” he said. “Life is simple in Breezy — or it was.”
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- SANDY ONE YEAR LATER: Tilted Breezy Point home becomes iconic image of storm devastation