As Hurricane Sandy started making its way to the Rockaways, Larry Racioppo went down to his basement and put all his tools up on a five-foot table. He’d heard the warnings, but his wife Barbara and their black lab Juno did not want to leave their Belle Harbor, Queens home, so they hunkered down to wait out the storm even though their house sits less than 20 yards from the beach.
“I don’t know if we’re stubborn or dumb, but I didn’t realize how bad Sandy was until they shut down the bridge,” Racioppo, 65, says. “We took on seven-feet of water and lost power for four months, but at least the gas line didn’t break. We heated our house with the fireplace, cooked simple meals on our stove top or ate from food trucks, and listened to the radio at night. It was eerie, quiet and desolate, but we never left.”
Fortunately for Racioppo, there was one house with a fence that provided just enough of a buffer between his home and Sandy’s massive waves to prevent total devastation. He lost some $10,000 worth of tools and other possessions, but not the three things that matter most: Barbara, Juno and a lifetime of creative work. Racioppo had long been astute enough to keep his pictures, equipment, negatives, cameras and everything else that goes along with it upstairs.
All things considered, they came through it with bumps and bruises, but no knockout punch. So after the initial impact of Hurricane Sandy began to ebb, Racioppo did what he always does, albeit reluctantly. He didn’t want to capitalize on his neighbors’ misery, but a photographer has to document his surroundings, so he grabbed a camera and headed out into the waterlogged streets close to home.