NEW YORK — I was the first to cry.
Not my wife. Not our three kids.
I was standing in our pitch-black basement as water streamed through the broken windows like a waterfall. A bathtub drain gurgled, the slimy sewage quickly pooling in an ominous mess. Just eight weeks after we'd bought our dream house — three bedrooms, big kitchen, pool, white fence and a finished basement — Superstorm Sandy was ripping it apart with a fury that was hard to comprehend, along with the rest of our Staten Island neighborhood.
EDITOR'S NOTE — AP Sports Writer Dennis Waszak and his family had moved into their Staten Island 'dream house' just weeks before Superstorm Sandy devastated parts of the New York City borough. These are his recollections a week after the storm hit and upended life for Waszak, his wife and their three children.
At 9 p.m. Monday, I sent my sister Christina a text message saying our basement was still dry.
Minutes later that all changed. The man cave I couldn't wait to show off to my buddies, the one I'd spent hours working on, was fast being covered in rancid brown muck, beginning with what was once a white carpet. Watching it methodically swallow up the mementos that took us a lifetime to gather, I lost it.
Family photos, clothes, thousands of CDs, furniture. Thirty years of Topps baseball cards my dad gave me each and every Christmas. A copy of nearly every story I'd ever written — as a budding sports reporter at Xaverian High School in Brooklyn, from the Super Bowl and World Series, during 16-plus years with The Associated Press — all gone.
My wife, Daria, urged me to stop, if only for the sake of our kids. I ran up the stairs toward the living room, struggling to compose myself. Behind me, all the while, the sludge kept rising. At 9:16 p.m., I texted my sister again: "The basement is completely covered in raw sewage. It's destroyed."