Tuesday morning, Maria Martucelli, 58, stood in the basement of the Dongan Hills home where she has lived since 1985. Wearing navy rain boots, she walked around the muddy remnants of what was once a comfortable living space for her invalid father and her 26-year old son, Justin.
Sheet rock covered the floors and six-foot high horizontal water stains traversed the top of the walls, a reminder of Hurricane Sandy’s force last Sunday. In the aftermath, Martucelli has been exhausted from trying to physically and mentally recover from the loss.
“We’re just tired. It’s like what, the seventh day? It’s eight days now,” she said. This eighth day was spent trying, yet again, to take in the extent of the damage. It was another twenty-four hours of directing clean-up crews and searching for valuable items. And it was the fourth of November, Election Day– a date barely registering in her mind, like a forgotten anniversary.
In a historic week for New Yorkers, the city experienced a convoluted trifecta—the widespread destruction from Hurricane Sandy, the cancellation of the New York city marathon as a result, and the nation’s general election. In Staten Island, one of the hardest hit boroughs, the residents found themselves struggling to balance the overlap of those events.
“At this point right now, we’re so cold, we’re so overwhelmed. We’ve lost so much we just want to go through the cleanup process. We aren’t even thinking about it,” said Martucelli, when asked about the election.
Right across the street from her home was P.S 52 John C. Thompson School, one of the county’s polling sites. Earlier that day, representatives from the Board of Elections had hurried to create a makeshift voting station at the school, which was without power and in need of a thorough inspection. Even in the sunlight of high noon, the four tents were dark inside, with employees shuffling around to direct the steady stream of voters to one of 15 voting booths.
Most voters were content that there was no disruption in their ability to exercise their rights, but in the midst of devastation, Martucelli felt frustrated with the lack of resources. When she saw the tents put in place, she said, she could not help feeling a little annoyed. “I’m like…wow. They had time to bring in stuff and set up generators for that, but what about us?”
Farther south by the shore in Midland Beach, Damien Rosario, 32, sat on the steps above his ground apartment wearing his black hoodie. His material life was now piles of debris and trash that he and his friends were slowly clearing out. In previous days, the initial thought of starting over had left him despondent. On Election Day,with a healthy degree of optimism and perspective, he reflected on the outpouring of support he received in the “war zone”.
“This is hectic and surreal, so much damage, so much to take in,” he said. “But all the people coming to help and all the people needing help is an immense shock to the senses.”
Before Hurricane Sandy washed away any sense of normalcy, Rosario was eager to vote. After, he felt an even greater sense of urgency to be heard. He worked with focus the entire day hauling soiled trash out, in order to have time to travel to a polling site.
“It scares me that people like me are going to need help from someone that really cares about us and has us in mind. That’s why I need to go vote — for the people who can’t make it because they were knee deep in mud,” he said. “Or, I’m afraid we will be robbed.”