We packed up the car with warm clothes and diapers and canned food and flashlights and headed out to the Rockaways last Saturday.
It was a beautiful day. Clear and breezy and if you ignored the blocks upon blocks of downed trees and dark intersections, you could almost pretend that it was a perfect fall day. As we turned onto Cross Bay Boulevard the car slowed and we creeped along for the remaining miles. The roads were crowded with families collecting food and water and others who were standing among the contents of their battered and gutted homes. The water logged and rotted remnants of everything that was once inside them.
We sat in traffic while these people moved around us. For a sick instant, as I played with the camera in my hands, it reminded me one of those drive-through safaris at Great Adventure. Where you make your way slowly through the amusement park as the zebras and giraffes come up to your car. You snap a photo, squeal in delight that the live animal came so close to you, and then move along. I took the three below before feeling that it wasn't right. We had our car. We had our apartment. We hadn't lost power. We weren't hungry. Taking the camera out to snap these people at their lowest, when I wasn't a photojournalist but rather just a glorified tourist, didn't feel right.
As we crossed the bridge back onto solid ground I watched the water disappear in the side mirror. It was blue and sparkling and inviting. As it faded out of view I could almost pretend that it wasn't the same monster that came ashore just a few days earlier. Almost pretend that this would never happen again, that we had seen the worst.