There is something that my New York and shore friends have all said in common: it’s much worse than the media is portraying. I was very, VERY lucky to have dodged Hurricane Sandy, especially considering she blew right over me. The areas along the shore weren’t so lucky. I decided to take a trip to Staten Island to go see for myself and to share with with world the devastation of Sandy.
I had no idea it was so bad.
I met a lovely family who was tearing out the flooring of their home. Talking to the mother, she told me how her whole basement flooded and they got an additional 2 feet of water. As you can see, their first floor was about 4 feet off the ground. That’s roughly 6 feet of water.
She was eager to talk to me and invited me in to see what was left of her home.
Her son was very excited to give me a tour. When we descended to the basement he told me about the black mark on this door. There was a large cabinet in front of the door. The force of the storm surge bent the door inwards over the cabinet allowing the water to rush in. They have since bent it back the best they could to seal up the basement.
His mother told me with a proud look about her how her son had saved the lives of their whole family. The boy interjected saying “We were watching TV and they said we needed to leave. Mom and Dad said we weren’t leaving but I started to cry and told her I don’t want to die here.” Mom chimed back in saying “So we packed everyone up and got out just in time. He saved all our lives.”
The highlight of the tour was the built in fish tank in their basement. Pointing his flashlight at the tank he told me, “There used to be fish in there, but we got all this water and they escaped.” and we all shared a good laugh.
After I parted ways with the family, I walked down the street towards a flatbed truck with volunteers handing out supplies. I wasn’t 30 feet from the truck before one of the men called to me “Do you need anything? A sweater (I was wearing a t shirt)? Some water?” Another man who was not in the matching t shirts the others had on walks up to me and tells me he is helping the people disperse the supplies. A friend of the owners, he was moved to tears talking about how this family owned company had brought 3 flatbeds from Connecticut full of necessities and if I were to take a photo, he wanted none of the credit for their generosity. He went on to talk about how the business takes local autistic children on fishing excursions. “You will never see something so beautiful in your life as when you watch an autistic child catch his first fish.”
A little farther down the way I came upon a scene I would see for the rest of my time on the island: a group of neighbors clearing debris from their homes occasionally pausing to chat. On many of the cars in the area that were completely submerged in water you see the name of the insurance company and the date on the windshield like in this photo. It’s these details that really bring light to how massive this effort to get life back to normal is.
Turning the corner I came across a nerve center, of sorts. The buzz of generators, heavy traffic of garbage trucks, construction equipment, and folks working filled the intersection.
On one corner was a group of college alumni from Florida sorting a mountain of clothing and bedding to hand out to residents.
A local chef brought his grill to cook free hot meals for residents and volunteers.
The front of this church had just enough space for folks to walk in between the heaps of clothing and water.
I asked this woman if this was her home. There were people all over the property, about 2 dozen shovels neatly leaning on the fence and other salvage supplies along the side of the house. “No, this is my boyfriend’s house. I’m here keeping an eye on things while he helps. The volunteers are using the yard to keep supplies so I want to make sure they find everything they need.” I asked if I could take her photo. “Sure, but what do I do… I don’t feel like smiling or anything.” I replied, “Well it”s no Glamour Shot. If you want I can get you a boa and I can use my soft focus lens…” It was good to see her smile.
A passerby is yelling to two sanitation workers. “I gave a shout to you folks on Fox News this morning. You deserve the medal of honor for what you’re doing, and I made sure everybody knows!” He then gave the address to his pizzeria and told them to invite their coworkers to stop by for free pie anytime they were hungry.
“Let me get a tool to hold if you’re going to take my picture!” Sorry, but I love your smile here. Trust me, we know how hard you’re working and we’re very thankful.
A very large group of Mormon volunteers were spread throughout the blocks helping families clear out debris and garbage from their homes.
The closer I got to the beach, the worse the condition of the houses.
If there was a house left at all.
This house moved about 500 feet to get where it is now.
This volunteer flew out by herself from Colorado. “I just wanted to help. Unfortunately I can only stay until Tuesday.”
This is the roof of a house in the middle of the street. Just the roof. No sign of the rest of the house.
I am forever changed after my trip today. I will be staying in the area over the next couple days and I’ll be sharing more photos and stories once I get back.
If you can give in any way, I hope these photos will move you to do so. One of my favorite photo blogs, Humans of New York is holding a 10 day fundraiser. 100% of the money raised goes to disaster relief. Please consider even a small donation. Click this link to help.