Two days after Superstorm Sandy rampaged across the Northeast, killing at least 72 people, New York struggled Wednesday to find its way. Swaths of the city were still without power, and all of it was torn from its daily rhythms.
At luxury hotels and drugstores and Starbucks shops that bubbled back to life, people clustered around outlets and electrical strips, desperate to recharge their phones. In the Meatpacking District of Manhattan, a line of people filled pails with water from a fire hydrant. Two children used jack-o'-lantern trick-or-treat buckets.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that parts of the subway would begin running again Thursday, and that three of seven tunnels under the East River had been pumped free of water, removing a major obstacle to restoring full service.
"We are going to need some patience and some tolerance," he said.
On Wednesday, both were frayed. Bus service was free but delayed, and New Yorkers jammed on, crowding buses so heavily that they skipped stops and rolled past hordes of waiting passengers.
New York City buses serve 2.3 million people on an average day, and two days after the storm they were trying to handle many of the 5.5 million daily subway riders, too.
As far west as Wisconsin and south to the Carolinas, more than 6 million homes and businesses were still without power, including about 650,000 in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
The mayor said 500 patients were being evacuated from Bellevue Hospital because of storm damage. The hospital has run on generators since the storm. About 300 patients were evacuated from another Manhattan hospital Monday after it lost generator power.
Bloomberg also canceled school the rest of the week, and the Brooklyn Nets, who just moved from New Jersey, scratched their home opener against the Knicks on Thursday.
Still, there were signs that New York was flickering back to life and wasn't as isolated as it was a day earlier.
Flights resumed at Kennedy and Newark airports on what authorities described as a very limited schedule. Nothing was taking off or landing at LaGuardia, which suffered far worse damage. Amtrak said trains will start running in and out of New York again on Friday.
The stock exchange, operating on backup generators, came back to life after its first two-day weather shutdown since the blizzard of 1888. Mayor Michael Bloomberg rang the opening bell to whoops from traders below.
"We jokingly said this morning we may be the only building south of midtown that has water, lights and food," said Duncan Niederauer, CEO of the company that runs the exchange, in hard-hit lower Manhattan.
Most Broadway shows returned for Wednesday matinees and evening shows.
Earlier in the day, across the Hudson River, President Barack Obama spent a day doling out hugs, handshakes and promises of military might to help. And he soaked in the praise of one of Republican challenger Mitt Romney's top surrogates, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
"I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion," Christie said with Obama at his side.
During a helicopter tour, a talk with displaced residents and a walk along a battered street, Obama saw Sandy's massive punch.
From high above, Obama viewed flattened houses, flooded neighborhoods, sand-strewn streets and a still-burning fire along the battered New Jersey coastline. Parts of the New Jersey shore's famed boardwalk were missing.
In a community center now serving as a shelter, Obama and Christie worked the room. About 50 people have found comfort there while other residents came in and out for a meal, a hot shower or a chance to power up their cellphones. After press left the shelter, Obama passed out White House-emblazoned boxes of M&Ms to the kids.
And in a waterfront neighborhood in Brigantine, northeast of Atlantic City, Obama and Christie walked a lonely street piled with debris.
He encountered a tearful Donna Vanzant, the owner of the marina.
"It'll be ok," the president said, hugging Vanzant. "Everyone's safe, right? That's the most important thing."
In his most formal comments, Obama sought to project leadership in a crisis, delving deep into the details of the federal response. He spoke of steps taken to position generators and water, and to use military planes and navy ships to move assets.
And he said he ordered his staff to follow a "15 minute rule." He said that meant his staff had to respond to any state or local official who calls within that time frame. "If they need something, we figure out a way to say yes," he said.
The federal government, Obama said, is "here for the long haul."
The president's tour guide was Christie, a rising Republican figure who joined Obama on a Marine One helicopter ride over the region.
Obama was equally effusive about Christie, telling residents that "your governor is working overtime" to repair the damage from the storm.
"The entire country has been watching what's been happening. Everybody knows how hard Jersey has been hit," Obama said.
Sandy's damage has been extensive across the whole state of New Jersey. One of the hardest-hit areas was Hoboken, where the storm surge flooded homes and streets throughout that city.
Channel 2's Tom Jones and news photographer Leonard Ragland traveled to Hoboken and witnessed the devastation first hand.
As they drove through the streets of Hoboken, they said they realized the remnants of the massive flooding there will keep homeowners and business owners busy for days.
"This is awesome. I've never experienced it," one woman told Jones.
People across the city of Hoboken were shocked by the amount of water that invaded the streets and homes there.
Larry Dennedy said when Hurricane Sandy hit, it didn't take long for her to do her damage.
"It actually happened, probably, in under 20 minutes, and we got trapped in here," Dennedy told Jones, showing him the foyer he was stuck in.
Dennedy said the storm damaged all the cars in the parking garage of his building and left the streets looking like a river.
"There's still a lot of water there," said the owner of a
dry-cleaning business, who was working to get the remaining water out of his store. He said at one time, the water was up to his chest.
Jones also drove by the Hoboken UMC Hospital, which had also been flooded. Residents said just about everyone was impacted by the storm.
"So many people have been flooded out, have been moving out of here. So many people's stuff has got destroyed. It's a good thing I live on the eighth floor," one woman told Jones.
Residents throughout Hoboken remained without power Wednesday, causing some to leave their homes until power could be restored.
"Yeah, we're out of power for a few days and expect to be for about a week," Hoboken resident Dave Kaplan said.
As Jones drove around looking for relief agencies helping those without electricity, he ran across a homeowner energizing the powerless in a different and important way.
"By the grace of God, two buildings here in a 10-block radius have electricity," said Marianne Fike, who is sharing her electricity with her entire community.
Jones saw dozens of people who connected their phones, laptops and tablets to her power outlets so they could reach the outside world.
"I think it's phenomenal. I think its kind of crazy to see where we've come where we are so connected and we need to have our phones. But again, to have people to offer this up to us, is just unbelievable," Hoboken resident Brent Swave said.
Fike was also passing out coffee and her neighbor, who is also sharing electricity, was passing out hot soup.
The humanitarian efforts made some forget about their troubles for at least a moment.
"It's actually a pretty good feeling right now," Swave said.
Resident told Jones it may be up to a week before they get power restored.
Watching with great interest
A Cobb County man, who spent many summers along the Jersey Shore, told Channel 2's Diana Davis that he can't tear himself way from the news coverage of Sandy's aftermath
Tony Quadagno grew up in the New York City area and told Davis he spent his summers and vacations in the now-devastated areas along the Jersey Shore.
"I can hear it, I can see it now. The warm sun. I can still hear the waves. The beaches, white beaches. The sun and the sand, getting a tan," Quadagno said.
A self-described "weather nut," Quadagno said he tracked Sandy in the days and hours before it hit, staying up most of the night.
"This was a monster and I saw that coming in, I knew it was winding up like a top," Quadagno said.
He told Davis he never expected the damage to be so extensive.
"Devastating like a bomb went off. It's upsetting, I mean, it really is. Its a part of your childhood and part of growing up. It was nice it was like home away from home," he said.
Like everyone watching the aftermath of the storm, Quadagno told Davis he's overwhelmed looking at the smashed boardwalks, homes destroyed and streets flooded with water or sand.
As the president and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie toured the devastation by helicopter, Quadagno told Davis he's confident his special place, that special place for so many others, will rebuild.
"It will come back. I have to believe it's going to come back and I also have to believe that one day I will be back there," Quadagno said.
Georgia stepping up to help
As the Northeast starts the process of recovering from Superstorm Sandy, agencies across the country and in Georgia are stepping up to help those affected by the storm.
Much of the emergency supplies heading into the disaster area are coming from FEMA's Atlanta Distribution Center. The center is the second-closest one to the stricken areas.
Huge pallets of water, food, blankets, cots and even portable toilets are loaded onto trucks that will then head to smaller distribution centers in New Jersey and Massachusetts.
From there, the states disperse them as needed.
"This is our mission," said FEMA's Accountable Property Officer Mitchell Richardson. "When it happens, we basically gear up and understand what the requirements are."
Richardson said they can have a truck fully loaded with emergency supplies and back out on the road within 20 minutes of its arrival at the distribution center in southeast Atlanta.
"It's a good feeling because we know we're helping to impact people's lives and support others," said Richardson.
chain Kroger is also stepping in to help with the relief effort, teaming with WSB-TV to help the Red Cross help the Sandy victims.
The images from the superstorm are sobering and reminder of how close we all could be needing a shoulder to lean on.
"Last night I could say that about 11,000 people stayed in 250 Red Cross shelters. That number may increase," said Ruben Brown with the American Red Cross in Atlanta.
Brown wants you to know that you are not powerless to help. He hopes the next time you're in the checkout line you'll notice the sign and say yes to the roundup.
It's very easy. It's simply a matter of going to Kroger, purchasing something and telling the cashier you want to round up. That money goes to support your American Red Cross.
"I have got relatives up in that area, so it's just devastating and they need all the help they can get," round-up supporter John Veazey said.
You can round up pennies on your receipt or give as much as you want.
"Had they not done that I wouldn't have known how to help, even if it was a couple of pennies. A million people giving a couple of pennies is enough to help somebody," customer Lee Parks said.
"You never know when it is going to be my time, and I don't mind it at all," shopper Hazel Dennis said.
It's a great way to help and as of now the program runs through Sunday.