Help-Portrait volunteer Keely Kernan shares her photos and stories with us as we kick off the Help-Portrait Hurricane Sandy Campaign today to raise money to give FREE portraits and goods to 200+ families affected. Visit HPSandy.com to donate.
This year’s New York Help-Portrait event is special because we are working with families in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Many of these families have lost everything.
I have worked for an extended period of time with All Hands Volunteers, a disaster relief organization that provides assistance to survivors of natural disasters. While working on the ground in New York, I met David Sylvester, a resident in Staten Island. After the storm subsided he and his wife returned home only to be devastated that their home had been completely destroyed by a fire. A power line fell on it during the storm. They began to sort through their belongings in the debris. One of the items his wife found in the ashes was a frame that encased a photo of her father who had passed away.
Joanne Vidal and her family live only a few blocks from David. Her family did not evacuate because her parents did not want to leave; Instead, they stayed upstairs during the storm. The water rose to the top of the first floor leaving her and her family stranded above twelve feet of water. They moved to the attic. She described the situation by saying, “There were fires and houses exploding, the ashes were all coming this way. So now on top of not knowing if we were going to drown we also thought we were going to be set on fire. I don’t know how to swim but my kids know how to swim, I told them if anything happens to grab the baby and just swim until you can reach something and don’t look back for me.” The next day a rescue boat evacuated her and her family. See the video below for more of her story.
Many of the families we are working with during this year’s Help-Portrait event have not only lost everything they own but some have lost each other.
Photos are so important to us because they evoke memories, are a testament to our experiences, and capture the story of life unfolding. This year’s New York Help-Portrait event is about bringing families together in the wake of hurricane Sandy, creating a positive environment and capturing new memories.
Video and editing: Keely Kernan Song: David Cardall / Life and Death