i went to Staten Island to volunteer for the hurricane recovery. i rode my bike through a couple of the neighborhoods that were hit hard - it was a pretty intense way to see the damage - row after row of houses, boarded up and all with massive piles of ruined belongings stacked out front, giant uprooted trees, cars stuck at weird angles in strange places, sinkholes in the sidewalk, sand and trash everywhere!
what moved me the most were not the volunteers like myself, who escaped the brutality of the storm but want to help out the strangers we're seeing on the news or reading about on the internet - or the runners with no race to run, and in many cases no connection to the city, but still coming out in droves to pitch in - it was the people of Staten Island. The couple with an SUV full of hot pizzas for residents and volunteers alike, and not taking no for an answer, the family driving up and down every street offering cups of hot coffee, the 2 burly men, who looked as tho they themselves may have lost their homes, asking people if there was anything heavy that needed to be carried out. Even the 67 year old man that we met on the ferry who offered to ride the 7 miles with us to the beach so we wouldn't get lost - being our tour guide along way.
In the end I feel as tho I didn't really do much - the organized group we were with was too big for the house we were at and we quickly ran out of stuff to clear. We tried wandering around and asking people if they needed help, but were politely refused everytime. In the end, I went down to the beach and filled a bag with trash - it seemed a little futile considering the magnitude of the damage, but also better than nothing.
I decided against bringing my "fancy" camera, thinking I'd be busy moving stuff and getting dirty and might have to leave my bag unattended. Instead I just put my cheapo point-and-shoot in my pocket. i felt a little awkward pulling it out....like i was a tourist - regardless I shot a bit of video/photos until my camera died... It doesn't do the damage justice...