WILLISTON, N.D. – New York natives Kyle and Brian Nestor are in Williston looking for work, but their hearts are 2,000 miles away in New York.
The brothers who moved to North Dakota about three weeks ago feel helpless as they follow the news of superstorm Sandy’s devastation to their home community in the Breezy Point area of Queens.
The storm caused a massive fire that destroyed an estimated 100 homes in the neighborhood their family has considered home for generations.
“Both of us were tempted to just pack up our things and drive back there,” said Kyle, 25.
Instead, they’ve spent the last several days trying to get in touch with family and friends, following TV reports and using the computer at the Williston Super 8 to check for updates online.
“It doesn’t seem real,” said Brian, 27. “It seems like a movie.”
Kyle has a temporary job as a janitor for Williston State College while he looks for a job in the oil industry. Brian is doing day labor while applying for a variety of jobs.
The hardest part for them last week was not being able to reach family members and loved ones to make sure they were OK, Kyle said.
As of late last week, they still hadn’t talked to their father, a New York City firefighter who was busy helping others while his home on the Rockaway peninsula had damage from at least 8 feet of water.
Their younger brother was volunteering by driving 50 miles and waiting for hours to bring gas back to residents.
Many residents chose not to leave Breezy Point because they made it through Hurricane Irene with little structural damage, Kyle said. But this storm was different. Kyle called the friend he spent Hurricane Irene with and found out that the boards on his house didn’t hold up and his friend had to swim across the street.
The spirits of the people of Breezy Point are strong and people will work to rebuild, but the unique community will be difficult to reproduce, the brothers said.
“It’s a very tight-knit Irish community,” Kyle said. “The roots are so strong over generations. It’s a really special place.”
While they’d like to go back to New York, they know it’s not practical. They think they could be of more help by donating money and encouraging others to donate to a relief effort through www.WePay.com.
Kyle’s last job was working for the cooperative of Breezy Point, which is on the western end of the Rockaway peninsula. If he weren’t in North Dakota, his job would be to help the residents.
“It’s the hardest thing being 2,000 miles away and feeling so helpless,” Kyle said.