Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hurrican Sandy Photoblog: Relief still needed!

This used to be a beauty shop.

This is a photoblog that will cover our Occupy Sandy group from Portland, Maine as we organize a large mutual aid relief effort to help those still suffering without basic needs (food, water, housing, electricity  in New York after the storm hit on October 28th, 2012. The Black Friday Hurricane Relief effort was an attempt four weeks after the disaster to raise awareness, and supplies for those still suffering and remind people in our immediate area, and beyond that we can still help. We sent out press releases leading up to the event and you can read the article in the Portland Press Harald. You can also see Dawn Eve York's photo gallery from this same weekend.
Step one, was to rent a 26 foot uhaul and decorate it. 
Here are a few awesome drawings that were added to the truck. 
Mike Anthony painted this excellent banner. The banner itself had a very rough and dirty experience on the trip, but it looked really great at the start. 
Here is Mike outside of the truck at Marden's. We had a moving drop off site at all kinds of Big Box Stores throughout Black Friday. We were asked to leave from a few stores and asked not to hand out fliers. The goal was to fill the entire truck and then drive it down to New York.
Mutual Aid not Charity. Thank you MAM.
The UHAUL logo was altered with duct tape. At this point we were right outside of Walmart and we were starting to collect all kinds of donations from people who were buying/bringing things off of the NEEDED list that we were handing out.
Another shot of the truck. Food Not Bombs provided free cocoa and donuts for anyone who wanted to stop by. 
Occupy Sandy.Close up of the decorations.
Write your message of support
The guy drove home and came back to bring us donations. 
When we got to YANA (you are never alone) in Rockaways, we met many organizers of the Occupy Sandy movement including Alan Porter, our friend and fellow Occupier from Portland, Maine. We started using the back  room to unload all of the donations for a free store. Anyone could come and ask for supplies, and we would be able to hand them whatever they were looking for. 
Across the street was the Occupy kitchen. They had an incredible array of good hot food.
Only a few buildings down was the start of the destruction. 
We spent our first few hours of volunteering unloading and organizing. Here you can see Dawn and Mike filling up the back room with the donations. There was another room outside which held all of the cleaning and medical supplies. 
After the truck was empty we took all the excess clothes and turned the uhaul into a free clothing closet. Families would walk up the ramp and search for clothes of all types. It was a really successful way to get some of the clothes to the people in the area. It also allowed them the room and space to look through all of the items and get the things they needed.
This is what the truck looked like from across the street.
You can see Mike and Dawn on the ramp. Meanwhile the house behind Yana was being gutted (much like most of the structures in the town) and a team of people where bringing out furniture constantly and filling up the sidewalks. Power had only recently been restored in this area, and so people were finally returning to their homes and getting light into the basements so that they could get items out of the house.
After only a few hours the entire free store was picked clean. The shelves were bare by the end. 
Trust. When all of our supplies and donations had gone out to those in the community we went for a walk to look around the area. We also got to see our friend Becky Wartell, an Occupy Wall Street Medic who used to live in Maine.  
A view of the destruction of Hurricane Sandy looking through one of those gates that stores pull down after closing. It was very eerie. 
I really like the look of the Fecund Clown.
Less than half a block from Yana headquarters the buildings were completely gone. All that was left was this huge pile of debris. 
It was odd to see intermingled webs of piping that was at times the tallest part of the landscape. 
This building was ripped apart by the ferocious claws of hurricane Sandy. It was pretty devastating.
This is another photo of what used to be a beauty shop. 
Looking through a shattered window. 
These steps and the door still survived, but nothing else did.
We wandered through a few residential houses to find the beach. You can see the bent poles and the construction vehicle moving debris in the background. The sky was quite impressive.
We met up with Evan McVeigh, who had been helping out at many different sites during his Thanksgiving Break. Here Dawn and Evan were looking at out the sunset. It was very cold at the point, and the wind was piercing.
The moon had arrived. 
Another shot of the beach. Other people were visiting the water as the sun was setting. 
The Sand Bar was destroyed. 
This huge boardwalk was lifted up by the water of the hurricane and shoved into the ocean front properties. The amazing thing was that the boardwalk stayed together. All the wood and railings were mangled and bent,  but it was otherwise intact. 
I had this incredible sense that the entire scenery reminded me of a hollywood movie. Mostly, because destruction is not commonplace to me, nor was such a beautiful sunset. I took a few photos of Dawn, who is a mother of two boys, and working full time. She inspired me to get more involved in Occupy Sandy, and she was the main organizer for donations in Portland.  
She was very cold at this point, and even more sleep deprived. 
Everything about this walk along the beach seemed both so sad, depressing and magical at the same time. At times some of the local kids would appear from under the boardwalk, seemingly to pop out of nowhere. They were exploring some of the hidden spots and finding new ways in and out of some of the destructed areas. 
Here was an upturned picnic table. It seemed to be a good metaphor for Rockaway Beach. In my head, this upturned picnic table half buried in the sand is an icon of the destruction. One side of the picnic table is stuck, struggling, suffering and the other side is turned the wrong direction to be used functionally. We can either just ignore the table and walk away, or we can try to help fix it. One person would be unable to pull this table out, even two people would have a really hard time, but if we all work together to dig it out we can reset the table. Make it useful again. That is what the community in Rockaway is trying to do. Occupy Sandy is trying to find the best way to begin restarting the lives of so many people and families. It takes a lot of effort and energy, but it can be done. 
Sledge was one of the hardest working people i met at Rockaway. She was cooking, allocating food donations, and running all over the place. At the edge of the day she was in this tiny back closet cleaning pots in a sink. There was no working light so she had put a flashlight on a nearby shelf to give herself just enough light to clean. She was really kind to all of us that had come down from Maine and she was really happy we were taking pictures and planning to post them. "The people here really want their story to be told," she told me, "Please put these pictures out there so people can see what is going on down here and that people still need help."

Please learn more about what is needed:

Thanks to all the people that made this happen, especially Dawn Eve York, Michael Anthony, Kara Oster, Alan Porter, Occupy Sandy, Becky Wartell, Rachel Rumson, Debra Cohen, our friends in Occupy Maine, Occupy Hartford, Occupy New Hampshire and so many more people who inspire and helped us on our trip.

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