James West is the editor and producer of The Climate Desk, a collaboration among The Atlantic, the Center for Investigative Reporting, Grist, Mother Jones, Slate, Wired, and PBS. He is the author of Beijing Blur.
FEMA finally arrives to assess damage, and finds a community already sifting through the rubble.
One of the first confirmed victims of Hurricane Sandy was Angela Dresch, 13, who was killed Monday night by a massive storm surge that swept through her home just behind the beach in Tottenville, Staten Island. All told, Staten Island saw more deaths than any other borough, and took some of the storm's worst beatings. With destroyed houses and a rising body count, residents here say they felt ignored by FEMA and the Red Cross, despite desperately wanting and needing their help.
By Friday morning, FEMA officials were in Tottenville, helping residents apply for disaster compensation. But they were already behind the Tottenville community itself, which had rolled out scores of volunteers armed with shovels and wheelbarrows (and a boatload of doughnuts) to help those who lost their homes sort through the rubble.