How one Muay Thai champion found resilience after Hurricane Sandy washed away the life he once knew

Katie Couric
Global Anchor

By Alexandra Zaslow

The perseverance of Queens was tested in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy ravaged sections of the borough. One of the hardest areas hit was the coastal community of Rockaway Beach, where Queens native and Muay Thai champion Chris Romulo watched both his home and his business get destroyed.

CROM wasn’t just a gym, but an institution where Chris and his wife were able to help residents of the Rockaways with both physical fitness and direction.

“We have kids that are, you know, kind of the same situation that I was when I was a younger kid, that we’re tryin’ to bring along and help them understand that there — there is a vision or — or a future, you know, if you choose it, I wanted to keep passing on what was passed on to me,” Romulo said.

Devastated when the gym was destroyed, Chris kept his head up and continued to run classes anywhere he could, wether it was a friends living room or inside a local Knights of Columbus.

Now, five years later, Sandy seems like a distant memory for The Rockaways. With new businesses, a beautiful new boardwalk and thanks to friends, students and members, a new CROM, now in a beautiful 5,000 foot space.

“It’s beautiful to look back and see how far Rockaway has come,” says Chris, who recently published a book about his journey titled Champions Uprising.

It’s the perseverance and the diversity that has always made Queens an exceptional borough, sticking it out through the tough times and embracing change and innovation. As the skyline changes and new faces enter the borough, Queens has still maintained it’s identity as one of the greatest cultural melting pots in the world.