Couple escapes ‘Sandy,’ trying to rebuild their lives

COMIC BOOK ILLUSTRATOR J.K. Woodward and his wife, Monica, safely escaped their New York home during Hurricane Sandy, but lost just about everything. The couple are staying with Jymn's mother, Donna, in Fryeburg until they get back on their feet. A community benefit supper will be held this Saturday at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Fryeburg.

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — As a commercial comic book artist, Jymn Woodward spends his days taking words from a script and drawing characters and scenes to create a page-turner for loyal fans.

Storylines often take unexpected twists and turns.

Woodward, however, found himself caught up in his own real-life, perilous adventure.

He and his wife, Monica, lost everything when Hurricane Sandy unloaded on New York.

Jymn married Monica last year and they recently celebrated their first anniversary. However, celebrating is far from their minds right now. They had just moved into their cute house on the point of Long Island called East Atlantic Beach. This was going to be a great move for them because Jymn could now have a work studio at home instead of paying high rent for an office space in the city. They had not even finished unpacking all their boxes when Storm Sandy hit. They were told that it would not be necessary to evacuate as their area was not in target for the big hit.

Then, a really unexpected thing happened. A northeaster cold front came in at the exact point of impact to the coastline creating “the perfect storm.” It took everybody by surprise and impacted and devastated areas otherwise considered safe — Jymm and Monica’s house was in that area.

“They (weather forecasters) were saying some really scary things about Long Beach, which is a low-lying five-block peninsula. We were in East Atlantic Beach, just a couple of miles away. There were no mandatory evacuations where we were, so we figured we would ride it out,” Jymn said. “Turned out to be far worse than they anticipated.”

Jymn had been living in Queens, and just had moved a month before.

“We needed a place for the winter, giving us some time to figure what we wanted to do, whether to stay or move out West. We got a really good seasonal price. We thought we had hit the jackpot,” he said. “It was nice while we were there — until the water came up. We thought we were pretty safe because we still had television.”

High tide hit. Swells were huge. The lights had just gone out and suddenly Jymn was stepping in water.

“We thought we were getting just a couple of inches, but when I looked out the front door, there was four feet of water outside the door, so it was only a matter of time before it was going to come in. We had to get out,” Jymn said. “The concern was if we opened the door, there would be a steady current of water rushing in and it would knock us down. We had to do something. So, we packed up our cat into a suitcase and went upstairs to our neighbor’s balcony.”

The neighbor had gone to a relative’s home, but Jymn and Monica were unable to get inside the locked house.

“We were suddenly in the middle of the ocean. Three hours up on the balcony. Phones were out because water had hit cell towers. I was on Twitter with comic (book) fans when it started. I jokingly said, ‘Oh, we’re dead.’ And then, I lost reception,” he said.

Three hours later, by some miracle Jymn had reception just briefly, enough time to get a text from his landlord, who told Jymn where the key was to the neighbor’s house.

“I went back into the water — which was disgusting, it was basically sewer water — and got the key from the garage,” he said.

Once Jymn and Monica opened the door, flood waters quickly filled their home. They saw their couch floating.

“I saved my laptop, which had my current work on it. Unfortunately, I lost three pages of my current project, which were in a low area, which is part of my salary — I receive a page rate, and I keep originals, which I can sell and keep that money,” he said. “I also lost a lot of original art. Not only am I an artist, I am a fan of other artists. All of it is gone.” The winds were much stronger than predicted. The couple saw a neighbor’s porch suddenly lifted and put up into a tree, “Just like you see in disaster movies. It just froze there. It just missed us,” Jymn said.

The couple stayed at the neighbor’s house, totally out of contact. When they had a signal for a brief moment, they texted friends to “come get us out of there.”

When Jymn did get a response, he was told people were not being allowed to cross the bridge by police and National Guard.

“It was under martial law. You had to prove you were a resident, because police were worried about looting. One of our friends was smart enough to lie and he came and got us after two days,” Jymn said.

They went back to Monica’s condo, which the sale hadn’t been closed on yet, so they were able to stay there. It was empty, with hardwood floors, so it wasn’t comfortable but it did have electricity, heat and plumbing.

“We rode it out a couple of days there until we figured out a long-term plan,” Jymn said. “My mother (Donna) offered to help, so we came to Fryeburg and will stay here until April when we head out to California.”

Jokingly, Jymn said once he and Monica move there “the big one will hit.” Jymn already has spent time off and on over a decade in California. He moved to Europe and then moved back to Palm Springs before moving to New York.

The plus side of the story is the comic community rallied around the couple when they heard about their misfortune.

“I only had the clothes on my back, which I mentioned on podcast, and all of a sudden I was bombarded with care packages at my studio. I own more clothes now than I ever have had,” Jymn said. “People really saved our lives. I’m not going to get super rich working in comics, but there is a sense of community there that you don’t see with many jobs. They really had my back on this one. You really don’t know what kind of world you live in until you need help.”

Jymn initially saw the storm as a personal tragedy, but then he realized it was a blessing.

“It opened my eyes. I never needed anything from others before, but the second you tell a story like this, you find out what truly people are made of. It changed my worldview. I am much more positive now. Kind of ironic that something bad can become something good for me in the long run,” he said.

For the time being, Jymn has created a small studio on the second floor of his mother’s house.

Jymm has supported many nonprofits with their fundraising needs. As recently as this summer, he visited the Mt. Washington Valley to host a fundraiser for Starting Point, a nonprofit agency that provides services to victims of domestic violence. He also donated over 30 original large canvas paintings to this same nonprofit last year to help raise funds for area victims.

Now, the community is reaching out to help Jymn and Monica get back on their feet.

A benefit supper will be held this Saturday, Jan. 26, beginning at 5 p.m. at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church on Route 5 in Fryeburg. Storm date is Sunday, Jan. 27.

The menu includes pasta, breads, salads and desserts. Cost is $8 for adults and $5 for ages 5 to 11. Under age 5 is free.

Music will be provided by Nancy Ray. There will be a 50/50 raffle; donations welcomed. Autographed comic prints by JK Woodward will also available for sale. Some of his works are collectibles. This will be a rare opportunity to purchase his autographed work.

Jymn’s work is known internationally. He works for such publishers as Marvel, Dark Horse, IDW.

Next week, a closer look at JK Woodward — comic book illustrator.


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