Trapped in Basements and Cars,They Lost Their Lives in Savage Storm

This was an avoidable catastrophe. Same in New Jersey, New Otleans and elsewhere. Not avoidable in the sense that a storm would happen, but that building codes and construction supervision and standards are so antiquated and unrealistic. 

So now Mother Nature provides the test, and the frauds and incompetent ones are left scratching their heads about the devastation they just helped go down in the history books. Now yet one more time, the world will watch and see how its handled. Is it swept under the rug or addressed as it should be?

This storms devastation was as good an example of the Law of Cause & Effect in action, as you’ll ever find and on a multi-state level to boot! It was ignored in the past. What happens now is the question! As we see time and time again, what goes around, does come around!

Kind of a metaphor of our lives, wouldn’t you say? 

Trapped in Basements and Cars, They Lost Their Lives in Savage Storm

The storm’s victims included at least 15 people in New York State and 23 in New Jersey. Some died as waters inundated their basement homes.

Mingma Sherpa, her husband, Lobsang Lama, and their little boy whom people called Ang drowned in their basement apartment in Queens. 
Credit…Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times

At 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Mingma Sherpa, who lived in a basement apartment in Queens with her husband and toddler son, frantically called her upstairs neighbor for help.

“The water is coming in right now,” Choi Sledge, the neighbor, said, recalling Ms. Sherpa’s desperation. “Get out! Get to the third floor!” Ms. Sledge said she screamed into the phone.

But the family did not come upstairs. Ms. Sledge called them again. The call was brief. “The last thing I hear from them is, ‘The water coming in from the window.’ And that was it,” Ms. Sledge said on Thursday.

All three of her neighbors died that night — Ms. Sherpa, her husband, Lobsang Lama, and their little boy whom people called Ang. They drowned in a storm that pounded down the wettest hour in New York City history, according to the National Weather Service, which declared a flash flood emergency — the first ever for the city — just at the time of Ms. Sherpa’s phone call.

On Thursday, a day after New York City and the surrounding area was pummeled with the remnants of Hurricane Ida, an onslaught with a destructive power of shocking proportions, the region took stock of the mounting dead: As of late afternoon, at least 15 people had been found dead in New York State, at least 23 people had been killed in New Jersey, four were found dead in Pennsylvania and one person died in Connecticut.

Families and friends of the dead reeled as they relived the split seconds when the water took the people they loved. It was painfully sunny on Thursday, following the chaos of a storm that had swept in at about 9 the night before, washing through homes, swallowing up vehicles and sucking down lives.

At around 11 a.m. Thursday, three people were found dead in a basement on Peck Avenue in Queens.
Credit…Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times

Some victims were killed by collapsing structures, while others were overcome by onrushing water. In South Plainfield, N.J., Dhanush Reddy, 31, was swept into the 36-inch mouth of a storm sewer pipe, according to the news site Patch. Mr. Reddy’s body was discovered on Thursday in Piscataway, nearly five miles away.

Still others, like Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Weissmandl, a dedicated patron of the Yeshiva of Nitra Rabbinical College in Mount Kisco, N.Y., died on the road as their cars flooded. While the torrents came down on Wednesday evening, Rabbi Weissmandl desperately telephoned his son after his car was trapped in deep water as he tried to drive home through the storm.

The son, Moshe Weissmandl, asked a Jewish aid group, Chaverim, to help. After hours of searching, his father’s car was found submerged on a ramp to the Saw Mill River Parkway. It was empty. Rabbi Weissmandl’s body was not recovered until Thursday morning.

Many of the flood’s victims lived in basement apartments, some of which were subterranean dwellings carved out illegally from larger homes and may have lacked the emergency egress required of legitimate apartments. Comparatively low-cost living spaces, they are a refuge of thousands of the city’s poor, even as they are known to be firetraps.

Overnight, the basements became traps of water.

In Elizabeth, N.J., two men and two women, all residents of the Oaks at Westminster apartment complex, were killed as water flooded ground-floor apartments.
Credit…Dakota Santiago for The New York Times

Outside the house on 64th Street in Woodside, Martha Suarez, an early childhood educator, arrived Thursday to check on her toddler pupil, Ang Lama. She had not heard from Ms. Sherpa or Mr. Lama about his lessons that day.

“I was afraid when they didn’t call me,” Ms. Suarez said through sobs, as she learned the entire family had been killed hours before. “I came to see the baby and the baby died, everybody died,” she said into her cellphone. “Oh, Jesus! The baby and the parents!”

A number of people were killed after walls and roofs failed to hold up to the deluge — more than half a foot fell in just a few hours. The rain broke records set just about a week and a half prior by Tropical Storm Henri, underscoring climate scientists’ warnings of the future of a hotter planet, producing ever stronger storms.

As the walls began to leak in their basement apartment on 183rd Street in Hollis, Queens, and the water reached their ankles, the Ramskriets — father, mother and two sons — hustled to get their things. Suddenly, they heard a collapse, said Dylan Ramskriet, one of the brothers, and a gush of water shoved them through the pitch-black apartment as the walls caved in.

The torrent swept his father, Dameshwar, across the home, as he clutched for the hand of his wife, who was known as Tara. “I tried to hold on to my wife, and she was trying to hold on to me,” he said on Thursday. He began to cry. “But the water pushed me away and I couldn’t feel her hand anymore.”

Ms. Ramskriet and their 22-year-old son, who went by Nick, both drowned.

As the waters receded on Thursday, Sabrina Shivprasad, a family friend, stood outside the apartment, its wall punched in by the cresting water, exposing what once was a family home. “When you saw the husband, you saw the wife,” Ms. Shivprasad said. “They were always together, they were like shadows to each other.”

In Elizabeth, N.J., two men and two women, ages 72 to 33, all residents of the Oaks at Westminster apartment complex, were killed as the Elizabeth River rose into their ground-floor apartments, according to Chris Bollwage, the mayor. Their names had not yet been released.

Raw sewage had sluiced through the Oaks complex, and on Thursday, all 600 residents were being evacuated, guided onto school buses en route to temporary shelters, Mr. Bollwage said. The river had risen between eight and 10 feet above its banks, he said; waterfront apartments lay with their doors smashed open, mud swirled across exposed living rooms. “It is really a true tragedy,” he said.

Some were lost even after daring rescue attempts. A cascade of water burst the glass sliding doors of a basement apartment Darlene Lee was visiting in the complex where she lived on Grand Central Parkway in Queens.

She became pinned between the steel door behind it and the door frame, said Patricia Fuentes, the condominium’s property manager, who heard her screams and grabbed two members of the building’s staff to try and free Ms. Lee.

As they worked, they tried to keep her head above the water, which had risen to her chin, said Andy Tapia, a maintenance worker. But by the time she was prised free, she had lost consciousness, he said. “We tried in vain,” Mr. Tapia said.

On Thursday residents and staff lit prayer candles by the door of the apartment where she died and remembered Ms. Lee, always stylish, always filled with a zest for life. “Darlene was the epitome of kindness and loving,” said Nancy Badagliacca, 60, a neighbor. “She’d give you the shirt off her back.”

A resident peered into the flooded garage of a building in Queens where Darlene Lee died in a basement apartment.
Credit…Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times

As the water rushed through the single window and single door of an apartment converted from a cellar in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, Ricardo Garcia, 50, and Oliver De La Cruz, 22, roommates, struggled to make it out against the onslaught. They only realized their third roommate, Roberto Bravo, a retired construction worker, was still inside when they heard his screams.

Mr. De La Cruz recalled the trauma on Thursday, while inspecting the ruins of his home. At his feet was a photo of Mr. Bravo, smiling in a tuxedo, washed up in the flood.

Mr. De La Cruz recalled hearing Mr. Bravo’s pleas of “Ayúdame por favor”: “Help me please.” But the waters were too high for the men to go back inside for their roommate.

Soon they stopped hearing his voice.

A photo was found outside the basement apartment of Roberto Bravo (seated, far right, in a black suit), who drowned. His roommates escaped the flooded apartment.
Credit…Anna Watts for The New York Times

Reporting was contributed by Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, Matthew Goldstein, Chelsia Rose Marcius, Angely Mercado, Amanda Rosa, Nate Schweber and Daniel E. Slotnik. Susan Beachy and Kitty Bennett contributed research.

Sarah Maslin Nir covers breaking news for the Metro section. She was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her series “Unvarnished,” an investigation into New York City’s nail salon industry that documented the exploitative labor practices and health issues manicurists face. @SarahMaslinNir

When Police Lie, the Innocent Pay. Some Are Fighting Back.

When Police Lie, the Innocent Pay. Some Are Fighting Back.

Kirkus Reviews, the gold-standard for independent & accurate reviews, has this to say about

What Goes Around Comes Around:

A stable, positive, non preachy, objective voice makes the book stand apart from others in the genre. A successful guide that uses anecdotes to reveal powerful truths about life.

~ Kirkus Reviews

“The author gives readers not just points or principles to ponder, but real human experiences that demonstrate them!
Kirkus Reviews
Buy What Goes Around at Amazon

“I’ve read a number of books that focus on sharing a similar message, including “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, “The Answer” by John Assaraf & Murray Smith, “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield, “Think and Grow Rich,” by Napoleon Hill, and I must say that I find Rob’s to be my favorite. – Sheryl Woodhouse, founder of Livelihood Matters LLC

Trapped in Basements and Cars, They Lost Their Lives in Savage Storm

Is it true that “What Goes Around Comes Around”? We may be getting close to another prime example of how that particular law of nature and physics plays out in the life of all humans, even those who have seemed impervious to its reach.

Now that the lengthy inquiry into accusations of sexual harassment and other improprieties related to the Governor’s handling of Covid, nursing-home data and state resources he may have illegally used to publish his book so quickly has advanced significantly, we’ll soon know the results of what at least appears to be a thorough and exhaustive investigation. There is always the risk of jumping the gun and assuming the worst, which we want to avoid in fairness to all parties, including the Governor.

From the current perch we all share of only having publicly available sources of info, it appears that Mr. Cuomo’s bluster and denials and the support he still has from political allies may see him through what appears to be the most significant threat he’s faced to his political career and legacy. If not, we’ll soon see another Governor’s career go down in ignoble flames due to their disbelief that those words applied to them, in spite of their use of them on many occasions to describe the plight of other people.

Drake Bell Given Two Years of Probation

Drake must have felt a sense of empowerment, the big star over the impressionable fan. It’s been called intoxicating and at the right time and place, with the right profile of a fan it might indeed have been just a “good time!”

But when that person turned out to be a minor it was a whole other ballgame and now Drake is someone who has been charged with the felony of attempted child endangerment. It lead to a plea deal including financial penalties, probation with various conditions for a minimum of two years and registration as a sex offender!

Have to ask though as we always should, is it possible its not so black and white? Were there mitigating circumstances? Had Drake himself been a victim of child abuse? Was this a one-off mistake or just one of a series? Does it indicate a much deeper problem and need for help, but with the proviso to also keep him away from other potential victims?

A deeper analysis might answer those questions and let us have a dose of sympathy. But in the end, sympathy or not, he made the choices! He lured her in! He pounced!

There’s at least one thing we can be pretty sure he didn’t have, which is the insight that whether there seems to be someone watching or not, that there IS something taking note.That something is the universal Law of Cause & Effect which explains every action/reaction in the physical universe and nature, but also applies to all human thoughts, words and actions and their consequences.

In our time and culture, the common vernacular for this principle in action is the expression “What Goes Around Comes Around.” Most of us use those words, perhaps many times, but only when describing someone else’s misfortune. We didn’t understand at first, but when the facts came out we could see why it happened!

However another truth is that, what is so easy to see in others can be so hard to see in ourselves. Unfortunately for Drake, he didn’t either! If he’d only read the book I wrote with that title he might not be in this fix!

The former star of the Nickelodeon series “Drake & Josh” had pleaded guilty to two charges related to a girl he met online. She attended one of his concerts in 2017.