There were no shortage of heroes as Hurricane Sandy made its way from the Caribbean, up along the coast of the southeastern United States, into New Jersey, and then across Pennsylvania. Hospital personnel evacuated patients from at least one facility that lost power. Firemen put out blazes in the storm. Police officers rescued people during massive flooding. Some heroes did not make it. Off duty police officer Artur Kasprzak drowned in the basement of his Staten Island home after saving seven family members from the flooding.
To reach the clandestine training camp where he photographed "The Jesus-Kissed, War-Fringed, Love-Swirling Rangers," South Africa-based lensman Jonathan Torgovnik was smuggled across the Burmese border in a pirogue. Then he was guided at night through a jungle laced with land mines. At the camp, Torgovnik met a former U.S. Special Forces soldier turned minister who is teaching freedom fighters to survive the conflict in Myanmar. "It's a bizarre story," says Torgovnik, who also shoots for The New Yorker and Wired. "His wife and three kids are there with him, living like Robinson Crusoe at the edge of a war zone."
The NYC Marathon, cancelled for the first time in race history. Photo: Steve Broer/Shutterstock
I don't live on the East Coast. I'm landlocked in the high desert, where it is 65 degrees, sunny, and cloudless today, as it has been all week. We have not had rain all month. But I grew up in New Jersey, and my parents and my brother and his family live in Connecticut, on Long Island Sound. Compared to the Sandy-inflicted horrors on the Jersey Shore, lower Manhattan, and Staten Island, they got off easy. They lost a few trees, part of a dock, and some branches. They're still without power, but they have a generator. It could have been much, much worse—and for millions, it was.
I don't know what it feels like to be in New Jersey or New York City this week, without electricity or heat, with long gas lines and bodies of the lost and drowned still being recovered and the terrifying, jet-engine roar of the wind burned on the brain. I don't know what it feels like to live in a city still crippled by a hurricane even as 50,000 people began arriving to run 26.2 miles through every borough, past unimaginable destruction and hardship.
But I am a runner, and I know that running, especially long distances, is an act of perseverance and faith. You train hard for months, prepare as best you can, but on race day, you show up and turn things over to the unknown. You can't possibly know what the day will bring. You might feel strong and fast. You will no doubt doubt yourself. You might hurt and curse your legs and want to quit. You will be carried forth by the strength of the runners around you, their energy and conviction and courage. You will run with the memory of those you have lost, and those you might never know. Unimaginable things happen when you run. Who's to say if they will be beautiful or horrific, strange or wonderful. They will be all those things. Running is like life that way.
Some stories take a day to report. Others, like Joe Spring's profile of Navajo cross-country coach Shaun Martin, "Running Down a Dream," are a bit more involved. "The best stories sometimes take the longest to report," says Sam Moulton, who edited Spring's piece. For Spring, who lives in Charleston, South Carolina, it was a five-year process. Here's how it played out.