Most people will advertise their community based on what it has to offer – attractions, restaurants, or cultural events. Yes, Paris is known for its Eifel tour, and Venice is known for its canals. However, I will advertise Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York solely for the people that make up its community. Brooklyn, and especially Coney Island, is full of strong-willed, independent people who do as they please. They are go-getters that make things happen for themselves as opposed to people who wait for things to be done for them. As independent as we are, the community proved to know how to be part of a team; something bigger than the individual. Not too long ago, Hurricane Sandy ripped through Brooklyn’s coastal areas, wreaking havoc and shutting down the city like it has never been shut down before. Nothing has ever been able to stop Coney Islanders in their tracks; we do what we want. Hurricane Sandy however, was something to contend with. The entire Coney Island area was severely flooded. The area was left without electricity for about a month. No electricity meant no heat or even running water for some. The situation was dire, and it seemed as if the community would never get back on its feet. Everyone was doubtful; no one believed that the neighborhood would be able to clean up the debris from the fallen houses or reopen the locally owned bodegas, let alone the legendary Luna Park and New York Aquarium. Memorial Day Weekend proved everyone wrong. Luna Park was lit up brighter than ever and the screams from the fully functioning rides were louder than they had ever been. Shop owners proudly displayed signs letting passers-by that they were open and ready for business.
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In October, Coney Islanders lost electricity, their homes and even loved ones. Mini vans were overturned, phone wires were tangled on the streets and homes were toppled over. Baby toys are family photos were scattered all over the roads. By the end of May, the boardwalk had been repaired, the fallen homes had been cleared away and Luna Park was lit up and fully functioning. Coney Island went from looking like a war zone to looking like the amusement park that it is, with people visiting from near and far. The tractors and pick-up trucks were replaced with crowds of people everywhere. How did so many independent people pull together and rebuild the community? We all forgot our differences and personal motives because we all shared one major goal: to rebuild the community in which we lived in. Everyone volunteered their time to clean up, picking up the debris on the beaches and streets by hand until garbage trucks came to shovel up the wreckage. Everyone donated what they could; baby clothes, canned foods and warm clothing. Kids ran up countless stairs to bring water to the elderly living in the higher floors of the buildings without electricity. Others grilled hamburgers and made PB&J sandwiches to give out. Together, we made the re-opening of Luna Park and the New York Aquarium possible. But more importantly, together, we made Coney Island our home again.
All this was done by the drive to rebuild what Mother Nature had destroyed. To some, it seemed impossible because the destruction was so widespread. But the community was too stubborn to let go of what had been broken. Through our steadfastness and self-reliance, we rebuilt Coney Island. The hard work payed off when the neon lights lit the sky in Luna Park and the throngs of people crowded the streets.
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