Living With Power, Surrounded by the Dark
By Carsen Russell on November 01, 2012
My mom and I have been blogging Hurricane Sandy from Long Island and Brooklyn, respectively.
Yesterday I planned to walk to the Lower East Side. My plans were changed quickly when I woke up to a phone call from a friend I worked with over the summer. She was still without power, all her food was spoiled, she hadn't showered in days, and someone had just tried to break into her apartment complex. Of course when she asked if I could come help her out, I invited to retrieve her from her apartment with what food she could save.
Pam, my friend, lives in Brighton Beach. Her apartment is literally on the water, and within walking distance from Coney Island. Where I live, in Central Brooklyn was lucky. Incredibly lucky. Hours after the storm passed through everything was up and running, we never lost power, never lost wifi, never lost anything. It feels like any average fall day in Bushwick.
To get to Brighton Beach, it was three buses, and two hours, each way. And with every passing block it was like crossing into another world. My first bus was relatively normal, but on the second bus it got a little more crowded, and trees were in the streets. Firetrucks, ambulances and police cars were going by with sirens every few minutes. It was like crossing into a war zone.
The final bus, that put me right outside Pam's door, was terrifying. Signals were still out in her neighborhood, and the bus almost hit three other cars. People actually screamed once. And every block we passed had people cleaning out destroyed stores, salons, their livelihood. Stores were gutted, glass everywhere. Con Ed crews were working to restore power and huge flumes of white smoke reduced visibility to zero every mile or so.
It was like a completely different world from the safe, sheltered, powered haven I live in. Brighton Beach was where the real storm was, these are where people's lives were put on pause, where people were walking around like ghosts. Shock on their faces, pale, grief stricken, taking in but not yet believing what was happening around them.
My friend met me at the door of her building, and we quickly went to her fourth floor apartment(which was unharmed, thankfully) and gathered her things to be charged, a towel to shower with(because I live with a bunch of college kids and towels are a scarce amenity in our home), and some food Pam wanted to give us so it wouldn't go completely to waste. While she waited for the bus I ran around with my camera for what was literally five minutes, and only went two blocks. Two blocks. That was as far as I had time to go, but the damage was immeasurable. There was trash, and parts of cars, boats and people's houses everywhere. The water was had an unnatural, pastel colored sheen to it, and there was a boat that had crashed into the seawall. Every single shop was destroyed. The store on the corner had decided to stay open during the storm (Pam had gone to get last minute provisions the afternoon the hurricane made landfall there), and it will take hours and hours and hundreds of dollars to repair it. A woman we spoke to on the bus said she had been in the area for 33 years and had never seen anything like it.
Slowly, Pam and I made the two hour, twelve mile bus ride trip back to my apartment. To civilization. Pam showered, and we ordered pizza. She charged her phone, laptop and iPad, and when my room mates returned we all played Mario Kart and hung around, talking. We remembered it was Halloween, and we're all glad we had dressed up over the weekend, but this wasn't too bad a way to spend the holiday.
A few hours after Pam and I got back, her boyfriend came to pick her up with the moving van he uses for work. We kept offering for them to stay, but they didn't want to impose. We told them they had an open invitation back anytime. Because for a few hours everything had seemed normal. But she was going back to destruction. Back to despair and screaming sirens. Back to darkness. Back to a war zone.
I have more photos in my flickr photostream from the few minutes I was able to take photos. I will continue to explore around Brooklyn and Manhattan while school is closed this week.
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