Hurricane Sandy Staten Island

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The devastating hurricane that hit my hometown on October 29th shut down Staten Island.  Half of our community of 400,000 people lost power.  Schools were closed for the entire week.  The stock exchange was closed for 2 days which was the first time since 1888.

I was born and raised on Staten Island.  I live in Westerleigh with my husband and two daughters, closer to the North shore of the island.  I happened to live in an area that is a few hundred feet above sea level.  We were okay.  My family lost power, but a mere three miles away in the Midland Beach area, the loss our South shore suffered was absolutely heart wrenching.

So far the death toll in NYC is 41, with 19 deaths from Staten Island.  HALF!

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My family and friends spent the last week on the South shore doing whatever we could.  We had support and generous donations from friends around the world who rallied around us to aid in the recovery of our hometown.  I sent so many iphone photos over the last week, but today as my brother Jimmy and cousin Austin were on our way to bleach a families home and help with cleanup in Midland Beach, I wanted to document my community and share it with my friends.

You’ll see a photo below of a pet store and nearby store that was leveled as the water from the beach swept cars and boats and debris up to Hylan Blvd.

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The red sign below says “UNSAFE AREA”.  You can see the door frame, that withstood the hurricane, but there was an electrical fire that demolished the building.

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Around the corner, we saw houses leveled, but fences that remained.  People hung jackets everywhere.   I didn’t recognize anything at all.  It was shocking.

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Upon closer look, we noticed a little teddy bear above the fence. Once again there was a sign that read “UNSAFE AREA”.  Is this really my home town?

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As we were turning down Midland Avenue, we noticed an American flag blowing in the wind.  Garbage trucks were lined up filled to the brim.  They were dumping the garbage just down the block.  On the beach.  Yes, on the beach. I guess its temporary.  So many people are helping with this recovery.  At every corner, we noticed volunteers and families trying to recover and clean up their homes or what’s left of them.

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At first glance the garbage dump at the beach didn’t seem that massive until I noticed the dump truck.  The garbage was piled higher then the truck and a few blocks in length.  This is what’s left of peoples homes, their things, memories… So much was lost.  Thankfully most are alive, but some are not.  Those who lost their home are staying in shelters or staying in what’s left of their home.  It’s just unbearably sad and unfair.

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Turning left down Father Capodanno Blvd, I saw a few signs that read “Food/Water —>”.  I just gasped, I couldn’t believe it.

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Sidewalks were destroyed on Father Capodanno Blvd.  Cars floated on to lawns, into houses.

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When I drove further down Father Capodanno Blvd, I saw a boat, car and truck just a mere 20 feet from one another beside someones beautiful home.

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The vision that popped into my head was frightening. How did this happen? What force caused this ground to crumble, truck to land on its side, just feet from a families home?  How do you even begin to clean this up?

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We saw this shed on its side, on the sidewalk beside a tree. I cant imagine what happened that Monday night that caused this to move and land in such a way.

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The streets are unrecognizable. Portable toilets at every corner.  Is this really New York City?  I can’t believe a natural disaster of this magnitude hit our hometown or any town.  Its surreal.

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At every other block we see the military driving their humvees. I guess its comforting… but it’s also heart breaking to realize we need their help.

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People hard at work cleaning up our community.  It’s only just beginning. We have a long road ahead of us.

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My grandparents retired in the 1980’s and bought a small condo in a beautiful ocean front area on Great Kills, Staten Island called Port Regal.  We loved to spent time there. It was near home, but you felt like you were somewhere else.  It was peaceful and serene. Recently, my family discovered Pirate Beach which is a nearby playground for children. I was nostalgic returning to the Port Regal area with my daughters earlier in the  year.  But seeing it today was so devastating.

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There were dozens upon dozens of boats washed on shore. Some damaged the condos.  All were totaled.  I couldn’t believe it.

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Look at this pier, it washed ashore.

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I spun around and around seeing boats at every corner.  I can’t imagine what it looked like on that fateful day.

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My brother and cousin were in disbelief as we walked around.

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Heading back towards New Dorps Miller Field, we saw so many more homes ravaged by Sandy. But something stopped us right in our tracks.  We got out of the car and looked a bit closer at the writing on the wall of this home.

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You’ll see writing on the wall of this home.  The lower section says:

“The people in this house are all accountable!! 4 people, 1 dog. We are all safe.  God Bless us all.”

Just above that it says:

“Dear Sandy,

You will NOT BREAK US!   Go to hell! We hate Sandy!”

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Dozens of trucks carting remnants of families homes were lined up on this block.  I couldn’t believe what we saw.  There was an SUV on someones front law, destroyed.

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As we got further down the street, we saw a home collapse. The roof was visible but the walls couldn’t withstand the force of Sandy.

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As I turn to my brother and cousin I see a boat on my right, just washed up on shore across from that home.

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The military again… keeping us safe.  What a day.

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A news crew was interviewing someone outside a home that collapsed.   We stood there for ten minutes and could not believe our eyes.

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Portable toilets at every turn.

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Some families stayed in their homes, but others camped outside, just across the street.  It was 37 degrees today, with the temperature dropping fast as we await the big Nor easter heading our way.  What is happening?  People can’t live like this.  What can we do?

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The Hallowed Sons Motorcycle Club came to help below.  They had the BBQ on, cooking food for the neighborhood.  Keeping everyone nearby a little bit warmer.

Every bit counts.

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People were driving from near and far to help.  Truck after truck, SUVs, cars filled with supplies to distribute to families in need.

I know Staten Island may seem far away.  Whether you’re 30 miles, 50 miles or 500 miles, we are all going through one of the toughest times in our lives. Sal Vasquez a Staten Island youth minister https://www.facebook.com/SalVasquezNYC is on the ground helping families in need, specific families with supplies and everything they need to get through this tough time. We’d be most grateful for your support.  Your donation would be truly and sincerely appreciated.  We have a fundraising page setup here: http://www.gofundme.com/1geaww

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Cate is working on updating you on her town and the New Jersey Shore area next.  Please stay tuned for further updates.

I hope to keep you updated on our recovery efforts as Staten Island rebuilds.

RELIEVE, RESTORE, REBUILD Staten Island.

Thank you for reading.

Much love,
Natalie

Hurricane Sandy Staten Island pin it button
David Scott - 11/08/2012 - 1:25 am

Natalie, our heart breaks for your home. You have used your gifts to capture the destruction as well as the heart of your community. Healing will come with time (a fact we know all too well post-tornado) and your role is crucial to that recovery. Blessings, well-wishes and lots of prayers daily head your way.

Charity - 11/08/2012 - 8:56 am

Oh my God- what tragedy. Those poor people. I am praying that their homes are restored, their boats put back afloat, and the are is back better than ever – sooner rather than later. Thanks for sharing these pics.

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