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Neighbor saves Far Rock residents from fierce flooding

Eric Curtis (l.) credits neighbor Nathan Smith with coming to his rescue during Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Christina Santucci
TimesLedger Newspapers

Far Rockaway resident Eric Curtis credits his quick-thinking neighbor with saving his life during Hurricane Sandy.

“We wouldn’t have got out, to be honest with you, because the water came over here so fast, it shocked all of us,” said Curtis, who lives on the first floor of a home off Seagirt Boulevard. “Next thing you know, it was up to your head. So people had to come and bail me out.”

As rushing water filled Beach 32nd Street during the storm, the surge buckled Curtis’ front door, trapping him, his girlfriend and another person inside.

Curtis’ upstairs neighbor came to the rescue, wading through chest-deep water and braving strong winds to reach those on the first floor.

“I came downstairs, pushed the door in and got them out. They were floating on the air bed,” said Nathan Smith, explaining that the pressure on the door was so strong it took two men to force it open.

Smith also doubted that Curtis would have been able to open the door to escape.

“Inside the house with the water pressure — if they don’t have a grip, inside is hard to pull,” he said.

Curtis estimated that there was 5 feet of water in his apartment at the time.

Afterward, Smith brought the three people up to his apartment on the second floor and he worried that they would have to find even higher ground if the flooding got worse.

“I was going to go to the third floor if it came that high,” Smith said.

Curtis said he had been reluctant to leave the belongings behind in his apartment before Sandy bore down on Rockaway.

“I didn’t want to leave because I don’t want to lose what I had, but I lost what I had anyway,” Curtis said. “The bed you see out there is my bed. I lost my TV.”

In the driveway, two soaked mattresses, a pillow and a throw rug were gathered in a pile, and pieces of scaffolding from an apartment building lay in the street out front. Curtis said he was grateful Smith was looking out for him.

“If we didn’t stick together, I don’t know where we would be at right now,” he said.

On Sunday, Curtis, Smith and their landlord Hamza Ahmed worked to remove debris from around the house and pump water from the basements from several homes.

“What gets me is FEMA. Nobody has really been out here to look at the damage that has been done and everything. We can’t let this stay because of gasoline. People have kids. They can’t be breathing this,” Curtis said.

Reach photo editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at timesledgerphotos@gmail.com or by phone at 718-260-4589.

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