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When I’m not in school, I work at a party-planning store called NY Balloon & Basket Co. in Coney Island. I also lived in Coney Island for roughly five years as a teenager. I’ve known my bosses for a long time and they are like a second family to me. This store—and the business itself—is as old as I am—or perhaps a little older. If you’ve ever been to the Prospect Park Breast Cancer Walk or this year’s Walk in Central Park, we did the balloon arch at the front and finishing lines. My bosses have dedicated their life to this store like a parent dedicates their life to their child—and, in all honesty, both the bosses became a little bit like mothers to us over the time we’ve spent there. But that didn’t stop Sandy from slamming the store—as she did most of Coney Island—pretty hard. They could never get flood insurance because of how close they were to the ocean. It was surreal to come into the store on Friday and see what Sandy left behind. Almost the whole staff came in to help clean (and by clean, I mean throw out thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment) and we all made jokes in the back trying to cheer everyone up while holding the flashlight over each others’ heads. We made a promise, which was really just a hope, that by December 12th, we’ll be back in business. In all honesty, once the power goes back on and we get some supplies and equipment, it may very well happen, but for now, the store remains temporarily destroyed. Luckily, a network of balloon artists and decorators came together and donated money to our store, specifically for all the supplies we’ll need once we’re back in business.
New Year’s Eve is not too far away, and for us, that’s normally a dreaded day: we work nonstop, running around like headless chickens trying to satisfy all our customers and by the end of the day, we walk around like zombies and we can’t feel our fingers from tying so many balloons. I’ve dreaded this day every year that I’ve helped out, but I think this year, if we are back in business by then, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief. I’ll be happy if my fingers fall off, as long as I know I’m back at work in the store.