Streams

Dispatch | Delivering Aid to Those Hardest Hit

Sunday, November 04, 2012

On the fourth floor of 2727 Surf Avenue, a dapper man in his 70s tried to retain a sense of normalcy. He answered the door wearing a matching vest and tie, his gray hair smoothed neatly back. The living room was a reflection of its occupant: neat and tidy.

There was no sense of urgency. Even though the power had been out for days. The temperatures were plunging and there was no heat. The National Guard had set up shop amid the displaced sand dunes and excrement that filled the street.

For him, survival meant retaining a sense of dignity and maintaining routines. He opened his arms in acceptance of the water and plastic-covered prepared meals we had been delivering to the housing complex.

"My wife died," he said, almost apologetically, as a way to explain why he was living alone in the darkness.

His building was about a block from the boardwalk where ferocious waters refused to be contained and cascaded down into residential Coney Island.

Hundreds of volunteers mingled with FEMA and NYPD personnel to deliver palates of water to high rises and meals ready to eat to those trapped in their apartments. Many were elderly and alone.

Across the hallway, his deaf neighbor shuffled to the door in her walker. She, too, lived alone. When she opened the door, her face brightened.

She hadn't been forgotten.

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