As she walks through a gutted home in the canals section of Long Beach and underneath the pilings that once held up the city’s boardwalk, 11-year-old Jessie Faith Yoo has one message for residents of the Sandy-battered community: “Hang on.”
The Garden City girl sings these words 23 times in a music video shot in Long Beach earlier this month. The song, “Hang On,” was written by Fabian Reyes, the boyfriend of Karyn Glickman, Jessie’s band teacher at Stratford School in Garden City, after Glickman was involved in a serious car accident.
“I welled up with tears as soon as I heard it. It touched my heart,” said Jessie, who starred in Stratford’s production of “The Little Mermaid” musical. Glickman and Reyes chose Jessie to record the song.
Although the piece was originally meant to boost Glickman’s spirits during her recovery, Jessie saw the song’s potential to inspire Long Beach residents. She and her family have made roughly 20 trips to Long Beach to assist with post-Sandy recovery efforts.
As of Tuesday evening, the 5-minute video, shot by Jessie’s uncle, Brian Thomson, had more than 1,300 views on YouTube since its release Saturday to coincide with the partial reopening of the boardwalk.
“People are seeing the boardwalk reopen and there is this sense that everything is OK now, but everything is not OK,” Thomson, 37, said. “There’s so much work that remains.”
Thomson, a Bethpage native, currently lives in Rome, where he teaches film production, but said he spent six of the “best months” of his life living in Long Beach about 10 years ago.
He immediately recognized Long Beach was still hurting when he didn’t have trouble finding parking during a visit to the city in late May. He and his wife had just returned from a trip to L’Aquila, Italy, which has still not recovered from the deadly earthquake that rocked the town in 2009.
“You spend time in these places and you get a real sense that people are focused on relief immediately afterwards, but recovery is a much longer process,” he said.
At the end of the video, Thomson directs viewers to visit projectpayitforwardlb.com to assist with ongoing efforts to rebuild Long Beach. Project Pay It Forward was co-founded by Billy Kupferman, 34, a Long Beach native who is also Jessie’s Spanish teacher. Kupferman was displaced from his home for seven months after Sandy. His organization has since been helping Long Beach businesses get back on their feet.
The soon-to-be demolished home featured in the video belongs to the owners of Earth Arts in Long Beach.
“A lot of the houses on the outside look normal, but inside there’s no one living there,” said Kupferman. “People are still deciding what to do and how they are going to pay for it.”
Thomson and Jessie hope their video helps more Long Beach businesses recover and inspires residents to remain strong.
Jessie added, “It’s going to get better.”