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Belle Harbor Residents Tell Harrowing Stories From Sandy On ‘60 Minutes’

Destroyed House In Belle Harbor (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

Destroyed House In Belle Harbor (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

Superstorm Sandy

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Residents of Belle Harbor, Queens, recalled their harrowing experience during the horrors of Superstorm Sandy on “60 Minutes” Sunday.

Belle Harbor and neighboring Breezy Point on the Rockaway Peninsula were among the areas hit hardest by the storm. Some residents lost everything they had, as homes were collapsed or washed away and the beach was left in a mess.

And in Breezy Point, 111 homes were destroyed in an extra-alarm fire at the height of the storm. Mayor Michael Bloomberg compared the damage to a war zone.

The Brady family – including New York City firefighters Jimmy and Brian, and Fire Department applicant Patrick – did not evacuate their Belle Harbor home. But another brother, Dennis, was away on a trip to Florida, and told “60 Minutes” he drove back right away.

“I ran to the store and got everything I could, generators, and water pumps and I just told the guy, ‘Stuff the car with everything you got in this place and put it in there. Here’s my credit card,’” Dennis Brady told Pelley.

He returned to find “total devastation” in the tight-knit neighborhood that Susan Brady described as being defined by “three F’s – family, friends and faith.”

Another neighbor, Mike McDonnell, told “60 Minutes” he was sheltered in a house with neighbors when storm surge began filling the street. Afterward, a gas line blew and the fire broke out, sending “embers of flames pouring over the house – the equal to that of a snow globe,” he told “60 Minutes.”

McDonnell used extension cords, twine and lamp cords to build a rescue rope, which he used to carry six people to safety, “60 Minutes” reported.

And as neighbor Jim O’Conner saw the fire destroying Breezy Point, he jumped into the water to help three women escape and held a 3-month-old baby over his head, “60 Minutes” reported.

“My wife likened it to the ‘Titanic’ meets ‘Gone with the Wind’ when Atlanta was burning,” O’Conner told Pelley.

Last week, volunteers flooded Belle Harbor as part of a grass roots relief effort. Among the New Yorkers who turned out was former first daughter Chelsea Clinton.

“I voted this morning and then as a New Yorker I just thought what better way to spend Election Day than trying to help New Yorkers have what I would hope we all would want our government to provide for all of us, which is not only the basic necessities but a feeling of support and community and what’s happening here is remarkable,” Chelsea Clinton told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond last Tuesday.

The western Rockaway Peninsula has seen more than its share of scares and tragedies over the years.

On Nov. 12, 2001, just two months after the 9/11 attacks, American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in the center of Belle Harbor, neighboring Breezy Point. All 260 people on board were killed, along with five people on the ground.

And just last month, a tornado touched down in Breezy Point, sucking up water, sand and small pieces of buildings. In the storm’s wake, the community of seaside bungalows was littered with broken flower pots, knocked-down fences and smashed windows.