Day 1, New York City, Breezy Point, The Rockaways, Queens
Dear CK and GH,
After spending time driving around and visiting communities in the Rockaways, I have decided to leave town, drive south towards Florida, hopefully through Staten Island, and visit more communities in Jersey and keep on going until I come to terms with a thought process about our epoch and about finding safe haven.
Shooting pictures in Breezy Point and in Far Rockaway was transformational, a deep experience. The devastation is on such a scale, the pain is on such a scale, that I really have a feeling of having entered into another dimension. Also, these people are alone with the exception of the firemen and police. They’ve been abandoned. FEMA only showed up on the third day. No Red Cross to be seen, and in the case of Far Rockaway, a storm like Sandy is bad, but if you’re poor and destitute like those people living in SRO hotels, it’s horrific.
I have to say that in twelve years, to have shot pictures at 9/11 downtown, and again downtown in 2008 when the financial system collapsed, and now, is intense: big city, big tragedies, and a sense of having entered into a different period of history.
New York is great. New Yorkers are incredible. Their resilience, their kindness, and their toughness are unequaled, but we are talking here about huge events. Despite the fact that I feel a little bit like Fabrice del Dongo at Waterloo, and that I know that I’ve seen nothing, or only a small fragment of what’s happening, we are after all talking about big numbers: 8 million people without power, a total cost of the storm estimated at 20 billion dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives disrupted, and I intuit that we are again at a tipping point in history.
9/11 was a tipping point. Two wars costing trillions of dollars. Lives in the hundreds of thousands. A polarization of the world and a new construct to our historical angst. 2008: the collapse of the financial market (most probably also triggered by the wars mentioned above, which cost 3 trillion and counting), cost 12 trillion dollars. An estimated 14 million homes foreclosed since 2008. 12 million people unemployed in the U.S.
At the time, “the day of,” none of us knew what was to come after. The consequences, costs, and pains endured. And after the storm we have again entered into a no-mans land of history. We are in the fog of history. We don’t know what is to come.
In any French train station, there is a sign that says “Beware one train might hide another one,” and if the last twelve years are testimony to that, it’s definitely true in history as well. So I don’t know what’s going to hit us now. I don’t know if and when and where we’ll be safe. I’ve included a few pictures to give you a sense of the situation in the Rockaways and if I can I’ll send you some more as I keep driving down, and I keep an eye on a dream that may be about to disappear.
P.S. I am sorry, my brain, like that of many other people I suspect, has stopped working. I am literally not together anymore.