Those We Lost in Hurricane Sandy

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By Sheila Langan, Deputy Editor
December / January 2013

On October 29, Hurricane Sandy swept up the eastern seaboard with a fury and intensity the region hadn’t experienced in decades. The hardest-hit areas included Staten Island, the Rockaway peninsula in Queens, Long Island and the Jersey Shore.

Over 100 lives were lost in the tri-state area: 64 in New York, 37 in New Jersey and 5 in Connecticut, according to the most recent figures. A number of them were Irish American, and here we take the time to reflect on those we lost in Hurricane Sandy. About some we have details of lives lived to the full and cut tragically short, about others we still know far too little.

Overwhelmingly, the most vulnerable people were the most in danger, particularly the elderly and the very young. In the Great Kills neighborhood of Staten Island, four-year-old Connor Moore and two-year-old Brandon Moore perished in the storm as their mother, Glenda, tried to get them to safety. The area was not a designated evacuation zone, but the flooding began quickly on the evening of the 29th, and Glenda decided to flee to her sister’s house in Brooklyn. Their car stalled in the water en route, and she was trying to take Connor and Brendan to higher ground when a surge of water swept them out of her arms. Their father, Donegal-born Damien Moore, an employee of the New York City Sanitation Department, had been called in to work to prepare for clean-up after the storm. Connor and Brendan were found on November 1, 100 feet apart from each other in a marsh-land area some distance away from where they were separated from their mother. A service for the brothers was held in Brooklyn, and a memorial service was organized in Portnoo, Co. Donegal, where their grandparents Paddy and Fay live.

At the New Lane Senior Houses in the Rosebank area of Staten Island, George P. O’Regan, 79, a retired New York firefighter who had fought in the Korean War, passed away after complications from a fall on October 31. According to an article in the Staten Island Advance, O’Regan was in very good health and was a volunteer at the senior center. He fell in a dark, wet hallway of the building, which had lost power, and sustained a fatal spinal fracture. A Staten Island native, O’Regan is survived by his son George and his longtime companion, Jessie Mattia. He had been awarded Bronze and Silver Stars for his service as a sergeant major in Korea.

In an all too similar situation, William McKeon, 78, died at Jamaica Hospital in Queens on the night of November 6. He had been found after Sandy struck, unconscious in the dark, wet stairway of an apartment building on Shorefront Parkway in Rockaway. The building was also without power.

In the Belle Harbor section of Rockaway, Henry Sullivan, 57, a teacher at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, was found dead in the basement of his house on Beach 136th Street and Rockaway Park. His wife, Brenda Sullivan, told the New York Times that Henry drowned when he ventured down to their basement to shut off the gas.

Russell F. Neary, 55, of Easton, Connecticut, was struck by a tree on October 29 as he was clearing debris from a roadway. A volunteer fireman, he was president and lieutenant of the Easton Fire Company. Born in Bridgeport, CT on July 8, 1957, Neary grew up in Easton and was a graduate of College of the Holy Cross. He was vice president of the Global Ocean Marine Department at General Reinsurance in Stamford, CT. Russell is survived by his wife, Maryanne, their two daughters, Cara and Caitlin, and by his brother, Peter, in addition to a large extended family. They have established the Russell Neary Memorial Trust Fund  to benefit Joel Barlow High School’s Girls Cross Country & Girls Track and Field Teams, and the American Red Cross.

In Long Island, Anne Marie Dolan, 57, was also killed by a falling tree. Dolan, who was homeless, was living out of a tent in the woods near Veterans Memorial Highway. A friend who was aware of her situation went to look for Dolan during and after the storm, but was not able to locate her tent until November 5.

Michael Fleming, 80, of Bay Shore Long Island, died at a local hospital after 8 hours of surgery to alleviate a head injury he sustained after being pulled out of his house’s open storm doors by a gust of wind and dropped on the front stairs. His son, Mike Fleming, Jr., is the film editor for Deadline Hollywood, and after returning to work on November 13 he wrote a moving tribute to his father. The following excerpt speaks to his loss, and its concluding message is universal:

“I appreciate the time I spent and the love I had for this Irishman with a generous spirit and rich sense of humor, who was proud he’d reached 80 and was eager to celebrate his 55th wedding anniversary with my mom next April. And who was so meticulously organized in his own affairs that he actually had sent in his absentee ballot, casting a vote for President Obama even though he was dead one week by the time the polls opened.

“I won’t belabor this any longer because it seems needy and my father would hate that; I recall vividly how much my dad loathed that drunken Irish father from Angela’s Ashes, who brought the coffins of his dead kids to bars to get sympathy [and] free drinks. But there is one more thing. Many who wrote asked if there was anything they could do. There is something. If you are lucky enough to still have parents alive, or siblings or other relatives you’ve lost touch with, please make time to call them. See them if you can. Life is so fragile, and at times like this you realize that family, friends, and faith are the only permanent things. I’ve learned I have those in abundance, and in places I had not anticipated.”

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