Report: Black mother who sought help as sons drowned during Sandy was denied

Two brothers, ages 2 and 4, were swept away Monday night when waves of water crashed into an SUV driven by their mom in Staten Island. They were later found dead. A story now emerging: their mother, who is black, went door to door begging for help—and was turned away. (via Steve Silberman)


    1. Without knowing the details it’s speculation, but I’d imagine the conditions wouldn’t have been safe even for a trained professional to go out looking for those children.  The women was driving an SUV that was over come by a wave, and managed to wash away two passengers. 

      I can imagine offering the women safety in my home, giving her supplies, first  aid.  If I could see the children from my home I’d definitely attempt a rescue, but anyone wondering around in that storm that knocks cars around and washes away houses is likely to be killed.

      **EDIT** So actually read the article, seems like people wheren’t even acknowledging her. Still speculating atleast, no way to know how the situation really went, but I can’t imagine slamming the door on anyone in that storm.

    2. The race of the mother is irrelevant, I’m sure, to their decision to NOT help look for the children. There are plenty of people who wouldn’t for anyone under those circumstances.

      But the decision to shut the door on her? Turn out the lights? Refuse to let her use the phone? Those are a wee bit more indefensible, and there’s a definite possibility that race was an important factor.

    3. We don’t know anything about the people who turned this woman away.  Whether they, too, were black, or white, or any other race; whether they were English-speaking Americans, or illegal immigrants scared out of their minds; whether they were young and able bodied, or elderly, infirm, disabled, or otherwise smart not to let a stranger into their home.  Or even how many houses she tried.

      The people who stay behind in catastrophes like hurricanes are people who have no where else to go, or who are willing to bunker down and die alone with the property they have.  They aren’t negotiating from positions of strength; they are the victims of these circumstances, at least as much as this woman and her poor children are.

      1. We don’t know anything about the people who turned this woman away.  Whether they, too, were black, or white, or any other race; whether they were English-speaking Americans, or illegal immigrants scared out of their minds; whether they were young and able bodied, or elderly, infirm, disabled, or otherwise smart not to let a stranger into their home.  Or even how many houses she tried.

        Actually we do.  The main guy was a white man named “Dan” (last name withheld) who’s excuse now that he’s been shamed is that he thought Glenda Moore was a scary *man*, oh, and that he had on ‘flip flops and shorts’……

        He said he did not know the fate of the children. Told that their bodies had been found, he said the deaths were a tragedy, but implied that the woman was at fault. 

        “It’s unfortunate. She shouldn’t have been out though. You know, it’s one of those things,” he said.

    4. Are you claiming that racism was the primary factor in this? What evidence is there that she was “turned away” because she’s black?

      1. There is almost never solid evidence that any single incident involves racism.  Does it therefore follow that racism does not exist?  By the same logic, there is no solid evidence that climate change causes any single weather event, therefore climate change is not real.  Also, no product causes cancer, or any other illness – because trends do not exist in the same sense as anecdotes.

  1. As horrifying as the story is, a cold, nagging question remains in my mind:
    Against all advice and warnings, why do some people insist on getting right into extreme danger’s way?
    Staten Island was in the thick of Hurricane Sandy, and right then, at night, she decides to drive to Brooklyn?
    This poor woman must have been driving close to the shore for the storm surge to hit them the way it did.

    My point is this:  For lack of judgment, in a series of impulses surely clouded by fear and anxiety, a family has paid the most horrifying price possible, a completely avoidable price.

    1. It was apparently an unplanned trip. The storm surge started inundating her home so she fled with her children. I’m not going consider blaming her because her neighbors apparently rode out the storm safely. I can only imagine her terror when her home started flooding. I’m sure there were many New Yorkers who did the same thing without these consequences.

      I just feel sad for her. I’m going to wait until more information comes in about people refusing to help her. All we know right now is what her sister said to the press. But if it is true, then her neighbors are terrible people. I wouldn’t expect them to go out and search for her children in such dangerous conditions, but they could at least have tried to give her shelter and contact police.

      1. So the story says she was leaving her home on Staten Island to family in Brooklyn.  The entire coast line of Staten Island was a mandatory evacuation zone.  They don’t say where she lived, but if she lived on the coast I wish she had chosen to comply with the evacuation.  If she was heading from the interior to the coast I don’t know why the city didn’t barricade the roads into those zones. 

    2. As horrifying as the story is, a cold, nagging question remains in my mind:
      Against all advice and warnings, why do some people insist on getting right into extreme danger’s way?

      And thus a cold, nagging question remains in my mind: why care more about, and then comment on, whatever it was that led to this woman’s decision to take her children out into the thick of the storm, than about the point of this post, and of the linked story? About, that is, the horrific racism of the people who repeatedly shut their door in the face of a desperate mother because she was a “scary” black woman?

      I think there’s a word for what you’re doing here — derailment.

      1. I don’t think my post is a derailment, nor was it my intention to derail anything, the headline and story are clear – the woman was basically abandoned by her fellow human beings and left outside to die along with her sons, a despicable event that should haunt those Staten Island anti-Samaritans to their grave, all the worse if it had anything to do with the color of her skin.

        But it’s an unpleasant fact that she was outside during the storm’s peak, and as such it is also part of the conversation – there was ample warning of the storm’s arrival and deadly serious tidal surges, enough time to plan, prepare and/or go to Brooklyn, but on that night this poor woman reacted instead, all too late and to catastrophic effect, one of several stark lessons in this harsh story.

        1. Okay, but recall that you wrote this —

          My point is this:  For lack of judgment, in a series of impulses surely clouded by fear and anxiety, a family has paid the most horrifying price possible, a completely avoidable price.

          Xeni’s post and the linked article explicitly focus not on this mother’s choice to venture out into a mortally dangerous storm, but rather on the racism displayed by those who shut their doors in this desperate black mother’s face. And yet, you chose to focus on the mother’s “lack of judgment.” You chose to MAKE that issue “part of the conversation,” and you’re still doing so. If you can’t see how your doing that basically amounts to blaming the victim and ignoring the horrendous actions of victimizers, then I don’t think there’s anything I can say that would make a dent in your obstinacy.

          1. My “obstinacy” as you put it, is in my focus towards two boys, aged 2 and 4.  Everything else that transpired is secondary to that, even as the headline focuses this story towards the racism issue.

            So either I’m blaming the victim, or you’re ignoring the ultimate victims.

          2. Of course you’re blaming the victim.  You’re saying they could have avoided the tragedy if they’d only had your 20/20 hindsight.  

      2. You may be right, and you may be wrong, but your post is crammed full of a bunch of narrative affirming assumptions.  Horrific racism?  The story doesn’t even mentioned who denied her aid.  Perhaps there was a racist component to some peoples’ response, but all of them?  Do we even know the races of all involved aside from the woman seeking aid?  Is there any evidence that anyone considered her a “scary” black woman?  Again… maybe that’s true?  We don’t know any of that.  So I don’t think we can grant the assumptions you’ve made as a given.  I don’t see how you can argue convincingly that “hey, this is clearly how about how horrifically racist everyone she talked to was that night, they thought she was a ‘scary’ black woman”.  It has this feel of… being against a horrible thing, racism that would lead to someone being left to die in an emergency  etc., then leaping to a conclusion about a story because it affirms how racism is still an awful issue.  Obviously, yeah, it still is.  On the other hand, I’m not willing to paint every one of a bunch of people that I have no idea about who they are, their situation, or their thoughts as “horrifically racist” on a suspicion.

          1. I’m just replying to your post.  You think I am derailing, but honestly, I’m just replying to your post.  I’m not trying to deny anyone’s experience.  I’m not even denying that racist factors could very possibly have played a factor in this whole thing. They definitely could have.  I’m not trying to be a bad person on the internet.  I may be arguing against something you are not saying, because I’m reading what you are saying wrong.  If so, I’m sorry, it was not done intentionally.  

            My basic point is that clearly racism is going on (in the general sense).  Personally I will not call people horribly racist as individuals when there is not some fairly clear bit of evidence.  I know that means that a lot of racism goes uncondemned, because racists don’t slip up and give you that evidence often enough. Someone telling me about their experience does not get dismissed.  Evidence/fact, as “luxury of the privileged” as your link says it is, does plenty to support the idea that racism is a real problem, I think.  Systemic inequities tell us that is something is up.  Real people are doing real things that perpetuate all of it.

            So, I guess, what is to be done?

    3. You don’t think a mother or anyone else, correctly or incorrectly, might head for higher ground even if it were dangerous if they perceived, correctly or incorrectly, that their current situation was untenable or might become so?

      Because that was my first assumption on why they were where they were, Brooklyn would have been safer had they gotten there. 

      Another reason I don’t heed or approve of hyped weather. It can cause as much trouble as it might prevent if the forecast were understated. She should have stood pat, but is there some chance that a “Frankenstorm” could scare her to flee, instead of a Cat 1 with a strong surge and applicable flood warnings?

      1. Once I woke up with the house on fire (during a Santa Ana wind condition), and the levels of confusion and panic are insane.

        You are correct, all bets are off when a situation becomes untenable or feels like it’s become untenable.
        One thing is for certain, though:  Fuck chaos.

    4. It’s possible she showed poor judgement, but is this the best opportunity to point that out?  Could we maybe wait for the funeral, at least?

  2. Yeah, totally agree.  Recently lost a friend who put his life on the line to help two drowning boys (the boys made it, he didn’t).  It’s a horrible tragedy made worse because he didn’t have the proper training to safely do the rescue, so he could have actually taken all three of them down instead of only himself.  And yes, it was in unsafe conditions where the boys shouldn’t have been in the water to begin with.  But that doesn’t mean any of them deserved to drown.

    Meanwhile, as others have pointed out:

    ““They answered the door and said, ‘I don’t know you. I’m not going to help you,’” said the sister. “My sister’s like 5-foot-3, 130 pounds. She looks like a little girl. She’s going to come to you and you’re going to slam the door in her face and say, ‘I don’t know you, I can’t help you’?’”
    Moore spent the night huddled on a doorstep as the hurricane’s assault continued.”

    Someone allowed a human being to huddle on their doorstep all night during a hurricane.  That should be a criminal offense.

      1. By that point, her children were likely long dead. How do you go looking for two small children who were “swept away” by flood waters during a hurricane and at night?

  3. So the stories being reported are really confusing, none of them seem to be quoting the mother directly. 

    On report says she hit a hole in the road, freed her children from the vehicle and fled to a down turned tree, and while sheltered there fatigue and the weather is when she lost her children.  After that is when she ran to get help. 

    Another story says her car stalled in flood waters, she fled the vehicle and attempting to gain shelter from one of the homes near by.  She was refused (that should be a crime) and later attempted to break in (understandable), but was unsuccessful.  Then she lost her kids in the storm and started soliciting other home owners for aid.

    I just don’t trust to know what the story really was, and I would like to hope that no one would turn down a reasonable request for shelter or aid.

      1. To quote Reagan: “Trust, then verify”; I hate that “concern trolling” is used so dismissively.

        I frequently trumpet news articles on Facebook, but always check a second source to verify its authenticity.

      2.  I disagree.  The stories are vague enough to be confusing.  That doesn’t lessen the tragedy, but it’s hard to be sure exactly what happened and what was said and done.  Searching for the truth is not concern trolling.

  4. How can one ignore such a desperate plea for help and not be crippled with guilt? I can understand that people would not go out in the surge (because of the immediate danger and likeliness that the poor children were already dead) but to turn the woman away? That’s just horrific. It’s chilling to know that there are that many people without a conscience out there.

    1.  People can and do routinely ignore the most desperate pleas for help from anyone they deem as ‘other’ – by race, religion, distance, political belief.  Dehumanization is a powerful and very common response, especially when anything else would require danger or inconvenience.

      1. Yes, but this particular instance chaffs all the more because the welfare of children is a concern that has been seen to transcend that commonality quite frequently.

  5. Staten Island is a bastion of right wing republicans and as in all of NYC, the racial divide exists, but even more so.

    That said, she lost her children and went looking for help, people refused to go out and risk their lives.

    Its unfair to judge her actions or decisions to ride out the storm and ignore evacuation warnings and wrong to judge people that refuse to risk their lives.

    1. It is unfair to judge people for not risking their lives, but letting a tiny black woman in your house, calling 911, getting her a blanket and trying to calm her down isn’t risking anyone’s life.

  6. Our motto as CERT members is to do the most good for the most amount of people. We are also trained not to become a victim ourselves.
    Disgusting that this poor woman was not taken in, no doubt. However, no reasonably minded person would go against mandatory evacuation demands in the middle of a devastating hurricane to aid in a likely fruitless effort & risk becoming another victim.
    Sound decision making is crucial amidst emergency situations. Yet basic common sense everyday is uncommon.
    I’m not quite sure why anyone is terribly surprised.

    1. You’re quite right. That white residents in a staunchly Republican district would repeatedly shut their doors in the face of a desperate mother who happens to be black is not at all surprising.

  7. Well, at least there’s one person we all agree we can blame: the victim. Everything else is speculation, people!

  8. Remember those people caught trying to escape Katrina while black? Why is it so hard to imagine that racial discrimination still happens in an emergency?

    The ability to call for help in an emergency shouldn’t depend on the race of the caller- but it does. Pretending otherwise doesn’t make you a bigot, it makes you an apologist.

    1. I do remember those people. They were probably the same ones described as “looting” groceries and other supplies that they’d found floating around them, while white flood victims photographed doing the same thing were described as merely “finding” such items.


  9. I’m so tired of this trope that just because you are a “victim” you are beyond criticism and personal responsibility for some or possibly all of the events playing out how they did, especially when the “aggressor” is a force of nature and has no bias one way or the other.  Those poor kids were the victims of their mothers EXTREMELY poor decision making and planning, she had a week of warning to take care of her family in a more responsible manner.  Even if the neighbors had helped, there is no reason to think the result would have been any different, except possibly more dead neighbors.  

    I grant that it would have been great had they tried to assist in some way and I personally would have (Katrina Survivor/2x War Vet), but they are not required or trained to do that any more than the mother was prepared to save her OWN kids.  The lady behind the door was not in a better position to assist than the mother in distress who LEFT her kids to find help.  It’s very easy to sit from afar and judge others in this chaos, but when the thin veneer we call civilization breaks down all that “good samaritan” stuff goes right out the window for most regular folks.  They have their own families to consider – this is not a case of flat tires on a sunny day – it’s a nightmare scenario that tests peoples resolve, training, and life experiences.

    Lastly, no there should not be a law requiring people to risk their own lives for strangers.  People are allowed to be selfish, scared, unprepared and unequipped, which is why we exalt those who CHOOSE to answer the call of duty when the time comes, it is uncommon courage and valor and putting others before yourself.  It is also unfair to hold everyone to that standard of living, because we are all created equal – but we develop in different areas UNEQUALLY.  That gives us the diversity to achieve greatness, we don’t live in the utopia people here seem to imagine, not yet at least – and I really do hope we make that happen…

    1. “Katrina Survivor/2x War Vet”

      I always find it interesting how so many anonymous internet commenters have these kinds of credentials that immediately give them some kind of authority over everybody else.  Kind of like all the anonymous libertarians who claim to be wealthy small businessmen who clawed their way up from poverty..

      Oops our bad, you win sir, we’ll just shut up now…

      Flood survivor and a war hero, that trumps everything.

      1. Thank for for totally ignoring the content of my message and trying to make a point about my decision to not associate myself with my online persona for professional reasons.  I’m sure what you describe is the norm, but in this case it’s not – so I must assume that you are Navin Johnson, and look like Steve Martin from the Jerk in real life.  The point of my account is to be anonymous and be judged on content, unconnected from my actual life, but I can add some details to give context to what I am saying.  Your account is no more you than mine is me, except that you are trolling, and I am making cogent points about a sad situation and the reality of the world we live in.

        1. I am making cogent points

          Please, you’re trying to divert the blame. The story isn’t that somebody was expected to go swimming off into the hurricane to find her kids, but that (if accounts are true) people wouldn’t even open their doors to a fellow human in a desperate situation, and didn’t even appear to even show sympathy. There are obviously other ways to assist that don’t involve mounting a one man Coast Guard rescue.

        2. And what exactly was the content of your message? That it was acceptable to ignore this desperate woman’s plea for help, shut the door on her, turn off the lights, and leave her huddled on some doorstep during the storm, because hey; deep down we’re all just assholes right. Or were you simply attempting to illustrate how this was all the victims fault?

  10. Maybe not for the main story, but could someone in the comments explain for non-American readers why race is such an important factor here? Please remember that we happy mutants are a global phenomenon.

    1. Oh, I didn’t realize Britain was insulated and free from incidents of racial discrimination……. Give me a break.

    2. A primary reason that race is such an important factor in this story, and in the U.S. generally, is that a couple centuries or so ago, landowning elites here decided that those below them needed to be divided against each other, so that they wouldn’t unite against their “betters.” Ergo, enslaved servitude was confined to “blacks” from Africa, indigenous people were more overtly declared “red” “savages,” and “white” become a relatively free, vaunted, and sought-after identity, one that has obscured class relations ever since by fooling lower-class whites into thinking they have more in common with rich whites than they do with their non-white working brethren. Unfortunately, this trick has worked so well, and gone through so many permutations, that racism still pervades American institutions, landscapes, relations, and psyches.

      And so, when a mother who happens to be black desperately pounds during a hurricane on the doors of white people (who live in a largely Republican district, thereby suggesting their even greater susceptibility to the fiction of inherent and significant racial difference), said white people are undoubtedly more likely to slam the door in her face than they would in a white woman’s face, because they have been taught by an ongoing white supremacist legacy that “black” = “dangerous.”

      1. A few hundred years ago a number of plantation farmers were short of labor. Native labor was decimated by smallpox and other diseases against which they had little resistance. Indentured whites were killed or incapacitated by malaria at highly unprofitable rates. Enslaved Africans, however, were resistant to disease and available in large numbers through well-established channels. Within a few years, all slave labor in the North American colonies was African. Later, the ideas of blackness and slave-ness were conflated in our national consciousness, but it wasn’t always and ever thus.

  11.  As an example of the pervasion of race issues in the US, back in 2002, I was working on assignment in Dallas for a period of five months. On the Fourth of July, I lost my mobile phone and thought it prudent to report it to the police.

    The questioning I was put through by the police to determine my race (before I even told them I was reporting a lost mobile phone) was like a scene from a Monty Python sketch.

    I was asked if I was White, Hispanic or Black. When I replied that I was a foreigner and didn’t fit into any of these categories, I was asked again. This time, I told them I was brown but not Hispanic. Again, the same question. So I told them where I was born and which country I was living in (and a citizen of). Again, it didn’t fit into any category, so again the same question. Again, I couldn’t give a satisfactory answer. Eventually, in exasperation, I was granted honorary White status.

    I wondered if the police response to an incident is determined by the race of the victim and maybe (to some extent) this is the same attitude that pervades US society.

    The phone was never found and I never returned to the US (and probably never will).

  12. Nowhere in this post or in the news story does it explain the demographic/political makeup of Staten Island.  So it’s a white, Republican area. That’s all you needed to say. Thanks.

  13. It amazes me always, people’s instinct is to protect their own emotional investment at all costs. Tell them a tragic story and the first things you’ll hear are: They deserved it, I would have done better, well we don’t know the facts but it’s possible they deserved it, etc. This is… unless the person who it happened to just HAPPENS to be more like them. Oh dear, then it’s a real victim and real injustice and oh the humanity…

    Kind of like not opening your door when there’s trouble around, really, unless it’s some one you know.

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