Hurricane Sandy struck my hometown of Staten Island, New York around 8PM on Monday, October 29, 2012. I wasn’t home. I had left home on Sunday, on the last flight that would leave NYC until Wednesday, October 31, 2012. For those three days I spent every free moment I had while not working covering the SEMA auto show in Las Vegas in my hotel room watching the devastation unfold on TV. However, every news station I watched had left out any details about what was going on in Staten Island. The little news I got came from phone calls to my mother and girlfriend whenever they could find power to plug in cell phones and hope for enough service to get a call out. The news I got form these calls was vastly different from what was being shown to me on the news.
I landed at JFK in the early morning hours of Saturday, November 3rd. I hopped in a cab and sped off towards home. What greeted me was overwhelming darkness. I had arrived before sunrise and with the power still out, the roadway of the Belt Parkway was wrapped in a blanket of black, no streetlights, no traffic lights, no lights in the windows of the nearby homes. We drove along the Belt Parkway in silence, no radio and no conversation. I was taking in what had happened while seeing it for the first time and I think the cabbie knew it. The Verrazano Bridge, a friendly reminder I was almost home on most of my cab rides back from JFK, was now only lit on the Brooklyn side. After the halfway point the bridge went dark, and after cresting the center of the bridge and being able to see Staten Island, the whole beach area, where I was born and raised, was simply black.
We turned down my street, which was still completely dark, and I stepped out of the cab. I heard the sound of a generator running across the street for the first time, a sound that would become normal over the next few weeks. I got into my house, set down my bags and sat on my bed in the dark. As soon as it was light out, I jumped in my truck to go survey the damage. It was obvious no one had yet been here to help. FEMA and the Red Cross where nowhere in sight. Everyone I spoke to expressed the same thing, a need for help… And then help came. After a few stops to check on my girlfriend and some other family I met up with a friend. While I was away, he had started the Rebuild Staten Island Foundation. He had called me while I was away to tell me about it and invite me to help so I was eager to get started. We’ve been at it every day since and have helped over 800 families now, which includes those friends and family of our own that have lost homes during this. There’s also no sign of slowing down. We have volunteers out helping everyday and over the weekends that have passed there are thousands more that come down to get to work.
These photos have been collected during that time. I hope you take them as a reminder of what was once here and with some hope for the rebuilding process that is already underway. I opted to not include too much of drastic devastation, but something more hopeful.