On a chilly November day last year, John Petersen cheerfully told a visitor that they were standing at New York State’s “south pole”—the point at the bottom of Staten Island where going any further south means going for a swim to New Jersey. He knew this because he’d lived on that spot for 42 years in a house that no longer existed.
When filmmaker (and now City Limits intern) Karla Ann Cote met John, he and his wife Victoria were in the opening stages of their quest to rebuild their home and continue living at a place they loved. If John was bemused, Veronica was frustrated, even furious, with an aid system that she thought was adding insult to injury.
Karla Ann went back to the South Pole this month to see how John and Veronica had fared over the last year. The frustration was still there—a feeling of betrayal, that a government they expected would care did not. But there was also surprise that people they didn’t expect to care did. Both sentiments were embodied in letters they sent and received.
Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers have Superstorm Sandy stories. Tens of thousands have stories of their recovery from the storm’s damage to their homes and businesses. There probably is no typical tale. But here is John and Veronica’s: