On covering Sandy
What a few weeks it has been. The tri-state area is still reeling from Sandy's wrath, but finally there are signs of rebuilding and renewal.
When it comes to this "Superstorm" I truly believe EVERYONE in the storm zone has a story. From the people who lost everything, including loved ones, to the business owners who saw everything they've worked for washed away, to the hundreds of thousands who lived in the cold and dark for weeks (some are still without power). There is my friend who was to get married 10 days after Sandy struck, but her wedding venue was flooded out (they found a backup at the last minute), my cousins who lost cars and family memories that were stored in their basement, a furniture-designer friend who lost his entire inventory and all of his raw materials and now must start from scratch.
I was extremely fortunate. Although I live in a "Zone A" which was evacuated, our neighborhood was spared from significant flooding and we did not lose power. And my immediate family only had to go a few days in the dark. But I came face to face with devastation and unthinkable damage: homes lifted up off of their foundations, roofs ripped off, families tearfully wading through water with garbage bags filled with what they could salvage, and blocks and blocks of homes completely decimated by fire.
At 2am on October 30, hours after Sandy's violent waves crashed down and caused so much ruin, my assignment editors directed my crew to Breezy Point, Queens. Early reports were that dozens of homes had completely burned to the ground. There was video of the massive flames, shot by an independent photographer who happened to be in the area. "It's the worst nightmare, unbelievable, you couldn't imagine what it's like," one man told me. I found him and a friend who was a retired firefighter running to their car around 3:50am. They live on Breezy point but their homes did not burn. They did flood but I'm not sure if the guys knew how bad it was in the middle of the night as one emergency after another sped by to get to the fire zone. It was not until probably 1pm that we finally were able to get back to the the area impacted by the fire. Below is a very thin sliver of what we saw. Hours before I took that picture, a row of homes stood there.
The days were exhausting-I started at 2am and worked 14-hour shifts, only to start again 8 hours later. But it was hard to focus on that with so much going on and so many people suffering such devastating losses.
For me the biggest, most frustrating challenge had nothing to do with getting no sleep, food or cell phone service. It was that there were just SO MANY stories in every place we went SO MUCH damage, and we could not tell all of the stories or show all of the heartbreaking scenes...at least not in the immediate aftermath. We're still working on it.