Glenda Moore and the Death of the “Good Samaritan”

03 Nov 2012

written by Carolyn


One of the saddest tales in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is the story of Glenda Moore, a Staten Island woman whose two children – Connor, age 4, and Brandon, age 2 – were swept away by a storm surge. Moore reportedly knocked on her neighbors’ doors, begging for help, but no one would help her.

Glenda Moore is black. Her husband, Damien Moore, is white. Staten Island, New York City’s fifth and often forgotten borough, is 64% white. Unfortunately, these facts are pertinent to this story.

When two children of an Upper West Side family were allegedly murdered by their nanny, many people criticized the children’s mother, Marina Krim, for having a nanny. If, as Salon Magazine put it, the Krim case “unleashed an onslaught of trolls” — the Moore tragedy has launched an avalanche of particularly vicious trolling.

A person posting as PCwriter posted the following comment about Moore on CNN:

“Yes the mother should go to hell for putting her children in harms way…. I feel bad for the children who lost their lives. Seeing that they had to depend on an irresponsible mother. Poor children never had a chance.”

As a mother, I can assure PCWriter that Glenda Moore, after losing her babies, is already in hell. Should Moore have evacuated sooner? Perhaps, but does it matter? A mother and father lost their two young children in the storm. Shouldn’t we have compassion for them?

No, according to a person posting as gtrbt1 on The Christian Post (The CHRISTIAN Post, mind you):

“Many whites, including myself, have experienced black on white crime first hand. So how many people are going to let a muscular, screaming black woman into their house…? How would you know whether it was just a trick and you were about to be the victim of home invasion, robbery, rape…That is the problem, you just don’t know. The one thing black people never want to do is own up to the fact that they have a bad reputation as a race because they have earned it…. And that is the problem, blacks in America on average feel entitled to engage in looting and crime against whites with the assumption that we deserve it. And then people are shocked when whites won’t open their door to a big black woman screaming and pounding on it? Hello, get a clue. ”

Never mind that Moore is reportedly 5’3″ and 130 pounds – gtrbt1 had to transform her into a “big black woman.” Because, you know, racism.

Judgments about whether to stay or evacuate in the wake of impending natural disasters can only be validated or repudiated in hindsight. Last year, the day before Hurricane Irene was set to strike, I drove with my two kids to Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and boarded one of the last ferries of the day to the island of Martha’s Vineyard. We had rented a vacation beach house with friends for a week, and I didn’t want to forfeit my vacation. From what I could tell (based on my less than exhaustive research), the storm wasn’t forecast to hit Martha’s Vineyard directly. I convinced myself the trip was a risk worth taking.

In fact, Irene more or less bypassed Massachusetts, including Martha’s Vineyard. We got lucky. Had the storm taken a different turn, I might be telling a very different story right now. Indeed, had Glenda Moore been able to make it to her mother’s house in Brooklyn, Connor and Brandon might still be alive.

As we saw in the Krim murder case, mothers are easy targets whenever these kinds of horrific events occur. The Moore trolling goes beyond mommy blaming, though. Moore is being faulted not only for poor judgment, but for bringing censure upon her neighbors by daring to ask them for help. Unfortunately, these detestable attitudes are frequently mirrored in comments on news stories whenever black people are involved in tragic events.

Moore’s neighbors were the opposite of “Good Samaritans” in more ways than one. The term “Good Samaritan” is used to refer to any person who helps a stranger in need. In the Biblical parable, the paradox is that the Samaritan — who is not just a stranger, but a man from a detested culture — helped the man on the road who had been beaten by robbers and left for dead, when his own people would not. The parable teaches that the injured man’s “neighbor” was not the one who shared his race or religion, but the one who showed mercy on him.

In his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. referenced the Good Samaritan parable to explain why he was supporting the Memphis sanitation workers in spite of the threats that had been made on his life. King, in imagining why the priest and Levite refused to help the man on the road, echoes the fear expressed by some of the commenters on the Moore case:

“And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’”

That was the first question – indeed, the only question – Glenda Moore’s neighbors asked.

In contrasting the Good Samaritan’s response with that of the Levite, King shows that fear can drive a different response:

“But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’”

In a society that values individualism over community, there are no neighbors. And so we have to ask ourselves – if we do not stop to help and show empathy for each other, what will happen to us?

13 Comments on Glenda Moore and the Death of the “Good Samaritan”

  1. Mallory

    Thank you for writing this. Extremely well said. This tragic story is about basic human decency, nothing more. It is the absence of compassion that allows unnecessary suffering like this to take place. When will we wake up and get it? My thoughts and prayers go out to Glenda and her family. I’m so sorry for their loss

  2. Linda Gadreau

    Well done! You’ve just demonstrated by your own actions and concern for another the importance of empathy and the power of love. There is a wonderful quote that say’s it so well “No man can help another without truly helping himself.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson Thank you for sharing this story and keep the faith. Life that created us has us all in it together. For those of you who haven’t got it yet, we’re all part of one big family and that’s the truth. Illusions take on many forms and constantly change but truth just is! So if you are and I am then we must be… Ya get it? love and blessings, -LG

  3. Melissa Chapman

    This post breaks us humans down at our most basest levels …. this last part is chilling…In a society that values individualism over community, there are no neighbors. And so we have to ask ourselves – if we do not stop to help and show empathy for each other, what will happen to us? I

  4. Jukebox Jones

    Why are white people being allowed to come in here and decontextualize the conversation?

    White people always want to take race OUT of the equation so they won’t feel guilty.

    Glenda Moore was not helped BECAUSE she is Black.

    Black motherhood is always on trial, and Black femininity is never recognized, so WHITE PEOPLE turned a 5’3″, 130 lb Black woman into a menacing figure and refused to help her.

    All this singing Kumbaya and ‘we’re all in this together’ is NOT gonna cut it.

    It’s dishonest, insulting, and intellectually violent.

  5. Carolyn

    Thank you for your comment, but let’s be clear about something: this is a blog that is open to commentary from all. If you are referring to Melissa Chapman’s comment, you couldn’t be more off-base — especially since she simply quoted the last line of my post. I don’t know where you see white people decontextualizing anything — maybe you have some kind of sixth “I see white people turning the conversation away from race” sense that I don’t — but you appear to be reacting to something that hasn’t happened. At least, not here.

  6. Average Person

    What really happened? Was she hanging on to a tree and the neighbor heard it and did nothing to help her and her kids or did she come to his home after it had all happened and want him to go find them when she would not? The reporters said she came to his front door and then his backdoor and tried to break in. Was she with or without her children? Either way I am heart broken about the death of these two beautiful children and I am a white man. So kill the noise. If this man who didnt let her in is racist then we need to pray for him. He will be hearing her and the kids screams in his head (if he heard them) for a very long time.

  7. Carolyn

    I don’t have the blow-by-blow details of what happened here. Why do you need that level of information to decide whether or not someone should have done something – even if it was just calling 911 – to help her? It’s fascinating to me, the level of vitriol aimed at Ms. Moore, when this story just came to my attention today: a NJ man broke into someone else’s house during the storm, took clothes, left a note for his father in case he died – and no one is calling him a criminal, or stupid for not evacuating. Here’s the story: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/06/3084286/nj-man-swept-away-by-sandy-left.html

    I will not “stop the noise” because there is no “noise” to be stopped here. A woman needed help in the storm. People refused to help her. Others attacked her for seeking shelter and rescue from the storm. That is despicable and worth drawing our attention to, in hopes that someone shows more compassion in the next storm (and there will be a next one).

  8. Toti

    Stop blaming other people for the death of Glenda Moore’s children. She took them from the safety of her house (not a flood zone) and drove them into a mandatory evacuation zone. She got scared when the power went out, which was to be expected by this type of storm. If she stayed in her house or left a day earlier to protect her children, her family would still have been intact. It is a horrible tragedy what happened to these beautiful boys. Parents are the protectors. They have to make good choices to keep their children safe. I pray for the family to gain their strength to get through this catastrophe.

  9. Shalom185

    Carolyn, I am African American, and I am born and raised Staten Island. This tragedy brings up a lot of things, a lot of issues, a lot of topics for discussion. A lot of opinions, a lot of speculation based on news reports, etc. Again, I’m, born and raised Staten Island; I know my Island inside out. And there is no way in the world if I had a house on Father Cappodanno Boulevard that I would have even considered opening my door in the midst of a tropical storm or hurricane. No way. The only thing separating Father Capp Blvd from the Atlantic Ocean is sand, Carolyn. Father Capp Blvd is and runs parallel to the Atlantic Ocean with absolutely nothing in between but sand — the beach. You have no idea how ferocious the winds come off that ocean in a regular storm, much less a tropical storm, much less a hurricane. You cannot even imagine what these winds sound like; sometimes the wind sounds like a chorus of banshees SCREAMING, other times it sounds like a locomotive that’s coming right at you. When you look out your window, you can’t see anything — nothing. If you’re inside of your house, you’re praying that it doesn’t rip to shreads. While the sheer fear of all of that is going on, somebody starts banging on your door or window and wants you to open it? You’re already staying away from your windows because of the ferocity of the storm and thoughts of what can come hurling through the window, and you’re already praying that all doors stay on their hinges. No way, Carolyn. Again, I’m not talking about all the other issues this tragic story brought up — please note that. I’m just explaining why there is no way under those specific, exact conditions that I would have opened up the door of a house on Father Cappodano Blvd which is just a few feet away from the Atlantic Ocean in the midst of a hurricane. I know for a fact if I heard babies screaming or crying, I would have been moved to do something. But the banging and shouts of an adult? And in that neighborhood — even a woman? I absolutely would not have opened my door.

  10. Carolyn

    I never said the man should have opened his door. I also never said he should have risked his life to save Moore and her kids. Help could have been a call to 911. Perhaps a phone call would have been futile and the results would have been the same, but if someone had banged on my door under those conditions and I didn’t do even the least I could do to try to get them some help, it would be hard to get over the guilt afterwards.

  11. Carolyn

    I don’t recall blaming anyone for the death of Glenda Moore’s children. Perhaps you should read the post again – which was focused on the awful responses of people like you who are blaming her for the loss of her children. Whether or not her house was in a flood zone, a natural response under those types of conditions would be to try to get closer to family, which is what she was attempting to do. You say she should have stayed in her house or left a day earlier. 20-20 hindsight is awesome. It is also completely useless. I wish your response had simply focused on the awful nature of the tragedy instead of the post-mortem analysis of all the things Moore could have done differently. It was a tragic event – a catastrophe, as you state – and that is enough.

  12. MaryJane

    “I don’t have the blow-by-blow details of what happened here. Why do you need that level of information to decide whether or not someone should have done something – even if it was just calling 911 – to help her? ”

    Personally, I think it’s important to know the facts of any situation for which the participants are likely to be judged publicly. I agree that the level of vitriol aimed at this woman is absolutely disgusting. This poor mother must be suffering the torments of hell. I can’t even imagine the pain she must be going through now, much less what she went through on that dreadful night. Glenda Moore obviously loved her children and never intended to harm them in any way. She made a mistake, and she paid an enormous price for that mistake. She will continue to pay that price, probably for as long as she lives, so blaming her now is nothing but cruel.

    But just as it is wrong to judge and heap blame on Glenda Moore, it is wrong to judge and heap blame on a group of Staten Island residents whom none of us has ever met and whose actions and thoughts are, at best, still unclear. Unless there is reliable evidence suggesting that folks living on this block were motivated by racism – and I have seen no such evidence – there is no need to point out the percentage of Caucasian v. African-American residents on Staten Island. Until one has compelling evidence of this being a race-related incident, those statistics are irrelevant. Highlighting the racial aspect of this type of tragedy necessarily clouds and diverts attention. and always evokes people’s prejudices.

    Just as has happened to Glenda Moore, the anonymous residents of this one neighborhood have now been thoroughly excoriated all across the interwebs. For the record, Glenda Moore did not live in the neighborhood where her car was swamped. They were her neighbors in the sense that they all lived in the same borough of NYC, but she was in fact a complete stranger to these people. Constantly referring to them as “Glenda’s neighbors” gives the impression that they knew her but cruelly refused to help her anyway. And the fact that at least some of these “neighbors” were white while Glenda Moore was black, is being used as proof positive that the people on this block are obviously and undeniably racist (not here, but on many, many sites). Had they helped a white woman search for her children while turning their backs on Glenda Moore, this would certainly be a valid point, but that is not what happened at all. It is oft repeated that these people all “refused to help Glenda,” a quote which originally came from a cousin of Glenda Moore’s who was not even present during this episode. It’s also suggesting that their alleged “refusal to help” played a large part in the tragic death of those two young boys. The fact is that the boys were swept away before Glenda knocked on any doors, so despite the gossip that has since morphed into “internet fact.” there is zero evidence that anybody on that block refused to give Glenda and/or her sons shelter from the storm. The fact is that she was not seeking shelter at that time. Glenda herself, along with at least two residents of that street, were quoted as saying that she never asked to come in, but instead asked them to come out into the storm to help her search for her sons…who at that time were already lost within the surging seawater. It’s one thing to be a Good Samaritan by offering one’s home as a shelter from the storm, but it’s altogether another thing to deliberately put one’s own life at serious risk by leaving the relative safety of a home and venturing out into the dark of night, on a street directly adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, during a ferocious hurricane, to search for two tiny children who, according to the hysterical stranger who has just appeared on your front porch, have already been swallowed up by the surging tide. But because it has been reported that as many as two people in that neighborhood refused to do just that, everyone on that block has since been labeled across the net as monsters, cowards, racists, or worse.

    The man who bears the brunt of the attacks, because of a dubious video produced by CNN, claims that nobody knocked on his front door at all but someone (he says he thought it was a man standing at the foot of his porch steps) threw a concrete pot through his back door. He assumed it to be a looter or burglar and this frightened him. His next door neighbor confirmed that the following morning, before anyone knew what happened to Glenda Moore’s sons, this man had indeed told her that a burglar tried to break into his house and even called her over to show her the planter that was thrown through his window. He was apparently frightened enough that he spend the rest of the storm wit his back against his kitchen door. But it is automatically assumed by the majority of commenters that this man was simply too bigoted & hateful to even offer shelter to a black woman and her babies. And as for the very few people who do seem to believe him, this man is still labeled a coward; slammed with every homophobic slur in the lexicon to show their disdain.

    Further, many, many, many people appear to be sure that these awful, bigoted “neighbors” of Glenda’s were just too hateful/lazy to even pick up a phone and call 911, yet all the original reports of this story mention that several neighbors had indeed called 911 that night. I have no idea how many actually got through, as it was also reported that NYC’s 911 system was swamped with calls tat night. They were evidently getting thousands and thousands of calls per minute during the height of the storm. And it was reported that Glenda Moore used her own cell phone to call her husband in Brooklyn after her car stopped working. I don’t know if she called 911 herself, but if she had her cell phone with her (and it appears she did) then I would assume she did call 911 herself. But someone, somewhere made the accusation about people not calling 911, and it has stuck.

    Anyway, this is my extremely longwinded way of saying that we should all stop judging and blaming people for the death of these two beautiful children. Much of the info being disseminated is drawn from opinion pieces, and on top of the constantly changing nature of the “facts” in this case, many of the stories have been self-contradictory. We simply do not know the real facts when it comes to what these people did or didn’t do, much less their personal motivations. I do know that, were I in that same situation, I would not have gone out into the hurricane to search the waters. As much as I would sympathize with Glenda Moore and her plight, I am not brave or suicidal enough to do that.. Perhaps this makes me a Bad Samaritan?

© 2018 Carolyn Edgar
site by