Published DateBy Tom Eastman
FRYEBURG — Commercial comic book artist Jymn “JK” Woodward and his wife Monica knew Hurricane Sandy was going to be bad when it hit their home and studio on Long Island last October. They just didn't know how bad.
Son of Fryeburg community activist Donna Woodward of West Fryeburg, JK and his wife of one year had moved in the fall from Queens to a small house on the point of New York's Long Island called East Atlantic Beach.
“It was going to be a good move, because I had had a studio in Queens, and also paid rent for our apartment, but with the new place, we would be able to have my studio in the house and save money,” said JK, 42, in an interview from his mother's home this week on the eve of a fund-raising dinner that is set to be held for the couple at the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Fryeburg Jan. 26 at 5 p.m.
Musician Nancy Ray will entertain, and JK will offer autographed comics prints for sale. Donations will be welcomed. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for ages 5 to 11, and under 5 free. FMI, call Holly Foster at (207) 935-2600 days or 935-2915 evenings.
Like his mother, past Valley Pride coordinator and valley volunteer Donna Woodward, JK has donated to local nonprofits in the past. Last year, he donated more than 30 of his original large-canvas paintings to Starting Point to help raise funds for area victims.
His work is known internationally, notes Foster. He has worked for such publishers as Marvel, Dark Horse and IDW. He has also designed book covers for authors such as best-selling novelist James Patterson. She says people may Google JK Woodward to see his work.
Now, Foster notes, JK and his wife need help.
That's because the couple lost everything in the storm except JK's laptop, their cat Fizzle, and the clothes they were wearing, JK recounted this week. Their Volkswagen Beetle was a total loss, as were their other belongings.
“After what we went through, I've learned to go digital for books, music and movies from now on,” said JK in a phone interview Wednesday night.
He and Monica moved into his mother's home Dec. 23, where he has been able to resume working in a small office in a corner of her home, creating his acclaimed art.
Many of his mother's friends donated beds, a desk, microwave and mini-refrigerator to allow them to be able to relocate to her house.
“As a freelance artist,” JK noted, “deadlines are deadlines, and there was no time to waste when I moved in. So, we came up that morning, unpacked, and I started work that afternoon, using my laptop. But it's tough to make up for lost time when you're working on projects,” said JK.
Now, they are hoping that funds from the pasta supper being organized by Donna's friends will get them back on their feet so they can relocate back to California where JK worked in the commercial comic book art world before he moved to New York.
“I had come from Long Beach, Calif., and moved to Queens, and then relocated to Long Beach in New York, so I thought it would have been a good omen to go from one Long Beach, where I had been extremely happy, to another. But, I guess I was wrong!” related JK this week.
JK recounted the story of their terrifying brush with Sandy in October in their first-floor apartment.
“We were on a peninsula on Long Island. The ocean came up and met the bay on the other side. The ocean swallowed up the whole peninsula for about theree miles,” said JK. “[Earlier] We weren't told to stay put but we also weren't told to evacuate, either. It wasn't mandatory,” said JK. “So, we were under the impression we would be OK ... But the water came up with the high tide: the wind and swells built up, but we had our cable TV and our electricity. Then, the power went out, and two minutes after that, the water started coming in through the door. So, OK, I thought, we've got a little flooding — then I looked out the door and already there was four feet of water out there, and it was rapidly coming inside through a crack.”
The water hit cell towers at the same time it knocked out the cable TV and electricity.
“We tried calling the landlord to get his advice on what we should do, and suddenly there was no reception,” said JK. “We knew we needed to get out of the house eventually, so the first thing we did was to get our cat. We put him in a suitcase. We planned to go out the garage door, but the garage filled first, and then water started coming in through a hole behind the refrigerator in the shared wall between the garage and kitchen. It just popped the refrigerator out from the wall.”
They got out using a side door in the kitchen, which brought them around to the front of the house where there was a set of stars leading to their neighbor's unoccupied but locked second floor apartment.
“We went up to the balcony,” said JK, “and we had to weather the storm. We were stuck there three hours, not sure how it would turn out. We witnessed a neighbor's porch get flung off and into the trees. We jumped out of the way, realizing we were in serious danger and that the winds were much heavier than expected.”
While they were outside, the cell phone reception returned briefly, just long enough for JK and Monica to text to their landlord.
“He told us where the extra key was hidden in the garage for the upstairs apartment. Basically, the water was almost up to the balcony at that point,” said JK. “So, I had to go back downstairs to the garage to get the key. We got into the neighbor's apartment, and we were there for two days, without electricity of heat. We called our friends in New York, asking them to try and get us, but both bridges were blocked off.”
After two days, the friends were able to reach them, and they were brought to safety in their former neighborhood in Queens.
He was able to utilize his still vacant former studio for a few weeks. Then he and Monica, who has her real estate license in New York, made the decision to come home to Fryeburg for get back on their feet.
Now, Donna Woodward's friends are coming together to help the family out.
“We had just moved into the apartment, so we didn't have renters' insurance. We had planned to. Thats one thing about having something like happen to you — I don't procrastinate about things any more.
He and Monia are hoping to be able to raise enough funds to be able to put down a first and last month's rent in California.
He said the entire experience has impacted his world view.
“When things are going right,” he reflected, “you really don't know what kind of world you're living in. You tend to be cynical. But there has been such an outpouring of support not just here but from the comics community — we did a podcast interview, for example, and I mentioned how we had to go to the laundromat every day because of our clothing situation. As a result of that, two days later I went to my studio was packed full of care packages with toiletries and other necessities. It showed that what should have been a real tragedy turned into a blessing. It gave me a much more positive outlook.”
The online encyclopedia Wikipedia notes that Hurricane Sandy devastated portions of the Caribbean and the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States during late October 2012. Sandy, classified as the 18th named storm and 10th hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, was a Category 2 storm at its peak intensity.
While it was a Category 1 storm off the coast of the Northeastern United States, the storm became the largest Atlantic hurricane on record (as measured by diameter, with winds spanning 1,100 miles). Preliminary estimates of losses due to damage and business interruption are estimated at $65.6 billion, which would make it the second-costliest Atlantic hurricane, behind only Hurricane Katrina.
At least 253 people were killed along the path of the storm in seven countries. The severe and widespread damage the storm caused in the United States, as well as its unusual merge with a frontal system, led the media and several government agencies to nickname the hurricane “Superstorm Sandy.”
New York City began taking precautions on Oct. 26. Governor Cuomo ordered the closure of MTA and its subway on Oct. 28. Later on Oct. 28, officials activated the coastal emergency plan, with subway closings and the evacuation of residents in areas hit by Hurricane Irene in 2011. On Oct. 29, Mayor Bloomberg ordered public schools closed.
Three months later, officials in New York and New Jersey are still dealing with the aftermath in terms of housing, repairs and power in many parts of the affected areas.