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Tropical Storm Sandy 22 October (Photo credit: NASA)

In times of crisis it is human connection and acts of kindness and humanity that keep us going.

Most people seek to survive and get through the worst of a storm like Sandy with minimal impact to themselves, their family and livelihood, however, others are compelled to act and show their value to their community.

The internet has been awash with both good and bad news from New York; tales of confrontations in the gas lines in Brooklyn and cries from Staten Island that they’ve been abandoned, countered with stories of companies opening their doors to allow people water and power, restaurants serving hot food for no charge and thousands of people out volunteering.

Here are a few of the most visible heroes of Sandy:

Cory Booker – Mayor of Newark, for being the kind of Mayor every town needs.

Booker’s constituency was hit hard by Sandy – flooding and a lack of power have left thousands of residents vulnerable and facing hardship. Since the storm hit, he has been out on the ground in Newark, tweeting as he goes, responding to appeals for help, reassuring residents, dropping by people’s places with food, nappies, batteries, blankets.

Booker has a reputation for being an involved local politician and public servant. He once staged a hunger strike in protest against on street drug dealing and voluntarily reduced his salary upon taking office as Mayor. During Sandy his relentless work has made him not just a hero, or a politician, but a friend to many in Newark.

Michael Bloomberg – New York Mayor, for admitting Climate Change might be worth thinking about.

Photo credit: david_shankbone/ Flickr

As the Mayor of the most populated city in the United States the opinion of Michael Bloomberg matters. Disillusioned with both candidates this cycle he has made no secret prior to Sandy, that he wouldn’t be endorsing either Obama or Romney for the oval office.

However, in a stroke of profound pragmatism, having seen the impact of Sandy on his city and being all too aware that the city faces a huge clean up and will remain vulnerable to the impacts of exceptional weather patterns in the future, Bloomberg put climate change onto the agenda of the voting public just days before the election and threw his support, albeit rather tepidly, behind President Obama on the basis of his environmental policies.

Instagram – for being the social network of choice for Sandy.

Instagram’s moment to shine came during Sandy. At its peak around 10 images per second were being posted with the hashtag Sandy and journalists filled photo comments with requests for picture rights and created slideshows of the damage. Time magazine even used the network to report on the storm.

It seems the true value of each successful social network comes during a crisis situation. Twitter showed its true power during the Mumbai bombings and again during the Arab Spring as networks developed and protests were organised, the message being sent to the world that a revolution was taking place.

Instagram, despite being purchased for $1 billion by Facebook, had yet to develop in a serious way, beyond a means of sharing photos of food and cats. In an event like Sandy the images best show the impact on peoples lives, communicate the news and create a sense of shared experience between those suffering. Images of darkened NYC streets, basin baths by glow stick and fallen trees told the story of Sandy to the world, outlines where help was needed and perhaps, most importantly, provided a sense of community and shared experience for those sitting in the dark worried about their own safety.

Photo credit: DVIDSHUB/ Flickr

You – for looking past the headlines and and doing what you can to help those in need.

Sandy hit New York hard, it will have huge economic impacts to individuals and the city for a long time to come. Early signs suggest the recovery will compound inequality and that help is most needed in certain areas.

It’s also important not to forget that the Caribbean was hit incredibly hard by Sandy. In Cuba, Santiago de Cuba, at the Southern end of the island, suffered extensive damage. Residents are without power or running water and an early estimate suggests 20-30% of the coffee crops have been destroyed which will see the impacts last well into next year. In Haiti too, the effects have been devastating, with a ongoing lack of adequate housing prior to the storm leaving residents displaced and fears of another Cholera outbreak. Jamaica and Dominica also suffered extensive damage.

If you’re moved by the images of Sandy and the ongoing efforts to recover, do some research and make sure you target your help to those most in need.