12 Months – Mary Ellen Olsen

12 Months - Mary Ellen Olsen

Mary Ellen Olsen suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. Along with her illness, Mary has suffered through many tragedies throughout recent years that have exacerbated her symptoms. After losing friends in 9/11 and losing her sister and nephew when AA Flight 587 crashed into the Rockaway Peninsula, she and her family had to escape her flooded and burning home on Beach 132nd St during Hurricane Sandy. She now is completely dependent on her Power Chair and her husband for everything. Even going to the bathroom.

Through raging waters, Mary Ellen was placed on a surfboard and along with her two sons, husband and dog, were rescued and taken to a friend’s home five blocks away to safety along with 25 of her neighbors. Almost their entire block was burned to the ground.

In the following months, Mary Ellen and her family were fortunate to have had a house in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn donated to them. However, without a disabled access house and no Power Chair, Mary Ellen was forced to live in a recliner chair 24/7 for three straight months.

Now back in Rockaway, Mary Ellen and her family are renting another friend’s house while they plan and ready their block on Beach 132nd St to rebuild a new family home with full disabled access and an elevator. She keeps the recliner chair in her study under a painting of their original house.

She is hoping to move into her new home by Summer of 2014.

Kisha Bari is an Australian photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her ongoing work in the Rockaways post Sandy can be seen on her blog www.howsandyhitrockaway.tumblr.com You can see her commercial work at www.kishabari.com