Walking to Coney Island Beach, I pass businesses whose front doors are nearly blocked with new arrivals of water, fruit, vegetables, bread, potato chips, cheese and meat. These areas still have power and water.
The closer I get to the Brighton Beach area, the more the evidence of the hurricane is, the more apocalyptic it feels. Businesses and houses without water and electricity. Grocery stores open, employees working with flashlights. People standing adrift on the sidewalks, in the streets, in alleys, wide eyed in shock.
A kind FedEx employee offers me a ride the last three blocks to the beach. He quietly shares stories of the fires, looting and violence that he's seen, speaking briefly, sadly. He wants to be home with his wife and children, but they need the money, so he had to go back to work quickly.
"People are good, I think," he shrugs, pointing to the old man carrying the young mother's groceries for her. "But when something like this happens, when the lights go out and you have to sit in the dark, hearing sirens and babies crying, it can make even good people think bad things," he whispers.
Roads to the burned out homes and area of Breezy Point are barricaded, so we can't enter by vehicle or on foot. View this link to see images of this area. Carlos, not his real name as he would be fired if his boss knew he'd given me a ride, drops me off at the entrance near the ferris wheel. We hug and I watch him drive away, and I admire his courage, his spirit and his determination.
I hold my breath and step out to cross the boardwalk and walk the debris-ridden beach. I spend the day wandering adrift...
It's not like me to not talk with people, but today is a quiet day and I only interact with others on the beach when I'm preparing to leave. These locals that I visit with are people who have suffered a great deal, but who are quick to smile and to be optimistic, to share their stories, their fears, their hopes, their now-amended dreams...