Luz Martinez sat next to her baby, who was swaddled tight in pink, blue and white cloth inside an incubator. Born at 26 weeks with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, Emma Sophia weighed less than 2 pounds and breathed with the help of a respirator.
Every day since her baby's birth, Martinez had visited the neonatal intensive care unit at New York University's Langone Medical Center. A good day was measured by the tiniest progress: Emma drinking a couple of extra drops of milk, her eyes opening just long enough for mom and daughter to connect.
Still recovering from an emergency cesarean section, Martinez couldn't drive. For 22 days, she had bummed rides to the hospital with relatives and friends.
It was Sunday, October 28.
Martinez, 42, had heard about Hurricane Sandy while shuttling from her home on Roosevelt Island to be with Emma. But she met news of the impending storm with the grittiness of a lifelong New Yorker: Humbug.
She was focused on one thing: Emma's health.
On that Sunday, Hurricane Sandy chugged northeastward off the North Carolina coast with winds stretching 175 miles from its eye. The Carolinas, Virginia and Maryland were already getting pelted by rain and whipped by wind. Forecasters warned the storm would collide with a cold front from the west to create a superstorm that would slam the Eastern Seaboard by late Monday.
Mass evacuations were ordered up and down the coast, from the Carolinas to Connecticut. The storm had already killed 67 people in the Caribbean.
Claudene Christian could feel the storm's wrath. At sea about 90 miles off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, aboard the three-masted 180-foot HMS Bounty, Christian and a crew of 14 others tried to help their captain outmaneuver the storm.
At 42, she had been looking for an adventure and signed on with the Bounty in May. "Sailing the seas for these past several months has definitely agreed with me," she wrote on her Facebook page in August.
But now, 20-foot waves and rattling winds raged against the 50-year-old wooden vessel.
About 500 miles north, in a waterfront neighborhood in Queens, residents had come to expect the unpredictability of Mother Nature. The place was called Breezy Point, after all. Its inhabitants knew the gentle winds and pleasant sound of lapping surf. They also knew the power of Hurricane Irene from a year ago.
Tom Duffy, 47, had evacuated his Breezy Point home when Irene approached. The beach bungalow, built in 1928, sustained minor flooding then -- nothing too bad. Seeing the warnings on Sandy, Duffy wasn't taking any chances. "Better to be safe than sorry," he thought.
Duffy rallied his family to the task of evacuating the neighborhood where he had lived since he was 12. He and his wife, Deidre, and two daughters, Corinne and Louise, 23 and 20, planned to hunker down in a Manhattan hotel.
The Duffys left Breezy Point midafternoon on Sunday with three changes of clothes.
Soon, Luz Martinez would end her visit with Emma in the hospital just a block from the East River. The storm was the last thing on her mind.
Destruction in all forms
It broke records, and it broke hearts.
More than 8 million people lost power, the result of wind, flooding and heavy snow. New York City's intricate subway system suffered the most extensive damage in its 108-year history. The New York Stock Exchange closed for two consecutive days, the first time that had happened because of weather since 1888. The surf in New York Harbor reached a record 32.5 feet -- 6.5 feet taller than a wave spawned by Hurricane Irene. A record high water level also was set at Battery Park in Manhattan, where the surge peaked at 13.88 feet.
Damage estimates put the cost of the storm around $50 billion, the second costliest storm in history, behind Hurricane Katrina.