NO PLACE LIKE HOME | THE DISASTER DIARY: ENTRY 1
By Led Black
“La vida te da sorpresas, sorpresas te da la vida’ ¡ay, Dios.”
I never in a million years would have thought I would be without a home to live in. My parents, hard-working immigrants from the Dominican Republic, came to this great country in the late 60’s with very little resources but an indefatigable will to work and to provide for their children. The values they have instilled in me have given me a solid foundation and have ensured that I, in turn, could do the same for my children. In 2001, my mother-in-law, my wife and I pooled our resources and purchased our first home in the town of Lodi in Bergen County, our own a little piece of the American dream. At the time my daughter, Imani, was 2-years-old and I wanted her to have the house and backyard that my parents dreamed of but couldn’t afford. In 2004 my 2nd daughter, Leila, was born and shortly thereafter in June of 2006 my 3rd daughter, Soraya, was born. My fruitless search for a son was over and I accepted the fact that I was destined to be the father of the 3 most beautiful girls in the world. Our children are our lives and providing them with food, clothing and a good place to live is what my wife and I both work so hard for.
Behind my property there is slope, the retaining wall at the top of the slope belongs to the neighbors that live above my house. Sometime in mid 2004, the owners of the retaining wall decided to cut the trees directly in front of the retaining wall because the trees were obstructing their view, their argument was that the trees were on their property and they therefore had the right to do as they please. My wife, always on the alert, took pictures of the people who had been paid by my neighbors to cut the trees. In March 28th 2005, our worst fears were realized; a landslide that began in the very same place where the trees were cut destroyed a part of my deck as well as my retaining wall. The incident happened in the middle of the night and completely startled my entire family. We initiated the litigation process to have our property fixed. Even though a good part of my deck was ruined and the value of my house had been diminished, our house was still safe to live in. Then the Nor’easter of 07 came rumbling into town.
Flooding has never been a problem in the part of town I live in. While a good portion of my town was underwater, our worries were the stability of the retaining wall directly above our property. The storm exacerbated the erosion and the dirt underneath the retaining wall was coming down at an alarming rate. By the time the storm subsided, a fair amount of the retaining wall was floating in air. On April 24th, the town of Lodi placed an order to vacate the house on my door. My mother-in-law, her son, my wife, our 3 kids and myself were in effect homeless. The ordeal had begun.