I took my bike off the ferry and headed southwest across the island. After passing through a beautiful meadow of tall grass that lined either side of the road, I hit one of the main strips in Midland, a neighborhood in Staten Island that was absolutely ravaged by flooding from Hurricane Sandy. Instead of tall grass, piles of people’s belongings lined the street, waterlogged and arbitrarily discarded. That’s when I realized how naive my view of the storm had been. Shamefully, I found riding through Manhattan in the dark a bit novel. I found braving the winds exhilarating. But seeing devastation on this scale was downright heartbreaking.
I was there to photograph the homes and neighbors of people who lost their lives during the storm for a story in WSJ. Some people just didn’t evacuate and drowned in their beds. Jack Paterno had cerebral palsy and couldn’t wheel himself to safety. Charlotte Breuers stayed home and died with her pets including a cockatoo. Jim Rossi, a WWII veteran, told his neighbors he was evacuating and not to worry. They found him face down in his backyard.
New York City is resilient. There’s no doubt about that. But this storm wreaked havoc in ways from which some of us will never recover.