Stories of survival

Resident launches oral history project in Sandy’s aftermath


Everyone who lived and suffered through Hurricane Sandy has a story they say they will never forget. But Mary Anne Trasciatti isn’t so sure.

“People have been through an ordeal — [they] say very interesting things that they eventually won’t remember,” said Trasciatti. “My mother suggested that it would be good … to collect these stories and preserve them.”

Trasciatti is the founder of the Hurricane Sandy Long Beach Oral History Project, a film project she launched shortly after the storm that she hopes will serve as a collective memoir of Long Beach’s experience with Sandy. She interviewed residents and recorded their hurricane stories, capturing emotions ranging from fear to hope to frustration to gratitude. She wants to archive these stories, she said, so that they will be available not only to future Long Beach generations but also to researchers who analyze the effects of storm and how people react to disasters.

“These are useful to researchers who are interested in how people make their decisions to evacuate and why,” Trasciatti said.

She has lived in Long Beach since 2000, and is a professor of rhetoric at Hofstra University. Her position in the School of Communications helped her procure the materials she needed for the project. Hofstra provided her with the cameras and the audio recording equipment. She hired a graduate documentary film student as her assistant, and the National Center for Suburban Studies at the university offered to archive all of the film for easy public access.

But Trasciatti ran into a problem when she set out to film: There was nowhere to film. The city was in disarray. All traditional public spaces — houses of worship, the VFW, the Knights of Columbus — were either closed or being used to shelter the displaced or to distribute materials. Many people weren’t comfortable having her film in their houses, which were mere skeletons of what they once were.

Eventually she came across Gentle Brew Coffee Roasters, a coffee shop on East Park Avenue. She liked the space and thought it had a real “community orientation.” The owner invited Trasciatti to set up her cameras and use the coffee house for her interviews.

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