By James West, Tim McDonnell, and Brett Brownell | Tue Oct. 30, 2012
“I think we all can agree we’re seeing complete and utter devastation,” Brendan Gallagher says, standing in front of the charred remains of his childhood home.
Just a short drive from New York City’s famous Rockaway beaches, Breezy Point, Queens, is a quaint seaside hamlet where many cops and firefighters come to retire. It’s a place known for charming historic bungalows and sweeping ocean views, but on Monday night it quickly became the setting for some of Hurricane Sandy’s most terrifying damage.
As a massive storm surge swept in with the gale-force winds, an as-yet-unknown source sparked a fire that, according to New York’s Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano, ultimately leveled more than 100 homes—luckily, most residents heeded early evacuation warnings and no one was killed. Today, locals waded back in through still-receding flood waters to assess the damage while firefighters—some off-duty, picking through the wreckage of friends’ and neighbors’ homes—tamped down the smoldering ruins.