“We’re Still Here.”

101st Street. Rockaway Park. November 17, 2012

When I approached and asked them for a story about the Storm, the women raking earth and hauling trash on the front lawn pointed in the direction of Doreen Willem.

Speak to her, they directed me. This is her place. She’s been here the whole time.

I was lucky to catch Doreen just as a bout of exhaustion forced her to take a rare break from cleanup work. She glanced at a sandwich one of the others had pressed into her hand, and motioned towards the porch.

And there she began to describe her terrifying night during the storm, and the long road to recovery she’d been walking since. She spoke slow and deliberately. She was stronger than the rest of us.
And when she finished, she glanced at the frigid house in which she’d been living for the past three weeks without electricity, heat or hot water. We’ll be having Thanksgiving in this house, she told me. And Christmas, too. We’re getting it ready. Because I’m here. And I’m not going anywhere.

Jordan Fletcher is a journalist and an attorney. He is a Fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. He writes for The Globe and Mail and the Dallas Morning News.