Button: Pride 2020

Staten Island Diary: 1 Editor Shares His Harrowing Stories & Photos

Staten Island is one-fifth of New York City, and while it might not be the first borough to pop into mind when The Big Apple is mentioned, it is a vital and iconic part of the NYC identity. Our hearts have been with our fellow S.I. dwellers and we've been eagerly watching the feeds, hoping for some sort of relief from the destruction left in Sandy's wake.
As reports have staggered in, we're still trying to parse information. What is needed? How many people are in trouble? Do they need volunteers? Is power back? We turned to Refinery29 pal, Engadget editor, and Staten Island resident Terrence O'Brien — after firing off a handful of frantic, worried texts and emails — to tell us the story of both he and his fiancée. To help explain what's happening on the ground in Staten Island, Terrence tells his Sandy story and shares, in pictures, what he (and his friends) have seen.
When Sandy made landfall, I was 3,000 miles away — about as far away from my home, friends, and family on Staten Island as I could get without crossing an ocean. I’d be lying if I said I was seriously concerned about the storm before I boarded my flight to Seattle Saturday evening. Most residents figured there would be some downed trees and flooding, people might lose power, and a few flights (including my own returning one) might be canceled. The dire predictions of the 24-hour news stations, with their over-the-top graphics and dramatic musical scores, weren’t taken to heart. And who can blame us, when news breaks out the same tricks for everything from elections to reduced bus service? Even as I stayed in touch with those back home during the storm, it seemed few realized the true extent of the destruction. So, on late Monday, as the first images started to roll in to the national news networks, the hurricane hybrid's ability for destruction became clear. Subway lines didn’t just flood, they overflowed; tunnels under the Hudson and East Rivers were every bit as watery as the estuaries they once carried cars under; lastly, ocean-front properties were now part of the sea.
Most of the initial coverage focused on downtown Manhattan and the Jersey Shore for a myriad of reasons, of course. My hometown, outside of mentions of its isolation thanks to closed bridges and discontinued ferry service, was absent from the picture. With most back on Staten Island suffering through a widespread blackout, there seemed to be little realization of the extent of the destruction in the borough itself. By Monday night, I was starting to panic. The destruction wrought on northern Jersey and Long Island was well-reported and, being nestled in between those hard hit areas, I could only assume the worst for my home. The first reports started trickling in early Tuesday as friends on the north shore were smart enough to charge their phones, and those lucky enough to have reception, started updating Facebook. Most were simple text statuses to let the world know they were okay. A few ventured out to survey the surrounding areas and posted photos to Instagram of flooded waterfront roads, downed awnings, and boats washed up on shore — including a large tanker. The initial impression was that this was certainly a powerful natural disaster, but that Staten Island had escaped relatively unscathed. As the day progressed, that changed...
Click through to see photos from Terrence, his fianceé, and his S.I. friends.

More from Living

R29 Original Series