Residents Survive Fire and Ice in Breezy Point, Queens

After being leveled by Hurricane Sandy and then blanketed in snow, a neighborhood tries to salvage what's left.

When Hurricane Sandy hit Breezy Point, Queens, many of the area's first responders were on duty in other parts of the city. They returned to what Mayor Bloomberg called the biggest fire in New York City's history. One hundred eleven homes burned to the ground, and most of the remaining buildings were flooded. On Wednesday night, the northeaster blanketed the ruins with snow.

Today, members of the National Guard, Navy, and Marines are on the scene. The Naval Mobile Construction Battalion from Port Hueneme, California, is clearing debris and assisting residents as they try to salvage what they can. Earlier this morning, three firemen were at the home of John Boyle as he hauled out deer heads from his taxidermy collection.

This community is no stranger to tragedy, having lost many residents and first responders in the World Trade Center attacks of 9/11. In the recent fire, many of the homes that burned to the ground had been in Irish American families for four or five generations. American flags now dot the demolished landscape, signaling the owners' patriotism.

During a walk through the ruins two days before the northeaster, I met Dorothy Raffo, who had an appointment with an insurance agent to survey her home. She said the devastated landscape around her reminded her of Hiroshima. In fact, she was holding in her hand an ancient copy of John Hersey's 1946 book Hiroshima. It had survived the blaze, inscribed with her maiden name.

Presented by

Julie Dermansky is a multimedia reporter and artist based in New Orleans. She is an affiliate scholar at Rutgers University's Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights. Visit her website at www.jsdart.com.

Why Is Google Making Human Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors at a world-class life sciences lab are trying to change the way people think about their health.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in National

Just In