Superstorm Sandy Takes Young Victims in Prime of Life

Jessie Streich-Kest and friend were crushed by a tree while walking her dog.

ByABC News
November 1, 2012, 3:10 PM

Nov. 2, 2012— -- Jessie Streich-Kest and her friend Jacob Vogelman, both 24, died underneath the weight of a fallen tree in the Ditmas Park section of Brooklyn, N.Y., Monday night, while walking her dog, Max, in the midst of superstorm Sandy.

The bodies of the young victims were found the next day, as residents up and down the East Coast began to tally their losses in a storm that has now taken at least 80 lives, 41 dead in New York City alone.

Two-year-old Max, a pit-bull mutt Streich-Kest had rescued from a shelter, survived with head injuries and was taken to a local veterinary hospital.

Max's dog walker, Tom Salgo, who is studying exercise science and has his own recording studio, said he learned about the deaths in an online news story, and was trying to understand the tragedy that struck so close to home.

"Around the time it happened, there were trees falling all over the place," said Salgo, 24, who was at home in the neighborhood during hurricane-force winds and was receiving emergency alerts about the weather on his cellphone.

"I think she was doing the right thing by Max and was just unlucky," he said. "She figured he was cooped up all day and needed a walk. I wish they hadn't done that. I wouldn't think she would go out there without good reason. But for whatever reason, they weren't thinking they were at risk."

Like them, many of the victims were young, embarking on new career paths when their lives were cut short.

"The family is devastated," said Bob Master, a family friend. "There is nothing worse than losing a child. She was a spectacular kid, really just coming into her own with a new career as a teacher. She had made a huge impression already. And she had this dog she was madly in love with."

She was the daughter of activists. Her father is Jon Kest, executive director for New York Communities for Change, and her mother works for the United Federation of Teachers and is a community organizer.

Streich-Kest, who had grown up in Brooklyn and gone to high school with Salgo, was a teacher at Bushwick High School for Social Justice.

She had trained through a Hunter College program funded by the Annenberg Foundation and had just had her first parent-teacher conferences.

Streich-Kest had previously done activist work with New Yorkers for Clean, Livable & Safe Streets and had protested the city's horse-drawn carriages.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, she worked with Penn Haven, an anti-poverty student group devoted to serving the city's homeless.

"Jessie was very friendly and laid back, but she was also driven," Spago said. "She went to school in Bushwick every day with students who were difficult. She had some sort of drive to help them, despite the obstacles in the way. She got along with anybody."

College friends told the local Ditmas Park Corner newspaper that she had a "warm heart" and tried to leave a "positive mark on the world." They remembered her buying a homeless mother baby formula and diaper, "out of the blue."

Vogelman, a close friend she had known since middle school, had a degree in theater design from SUNY Buffalo, and was studying at Brooklyn College.

Another young victim of Sandy ran a home business as a make-up artist, but was also striving to be a social studies teacher as a student at Lehman College in the Bronx, N.Y.

Lauren Abraham, 23 and known as "Lola," was electrocuted by a downed power line as witnesses watched her body burn.