They've lost their homes, their businesses and many are still stranded, but residents in the battered Northeast are overcoming the aftereffects of Superstorm Sandy with a gritty resolve.
"It's sort of like the transit strike a few years ago," said Elizabeth Gorman, 40, a Queens resident, who walked across the Queensboro Bridge on Wednesday.
Gorman was part of a steady stream of commuters forced to walk or bike into Manhattan after Sandy roared ashore barely two days ago, wiping out roads, bridges and mass transit systems across the region.
Commuters, homeowners and businesses struggled with the loss of power and waterlogged or burned homes.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a "transportation emergency" Wednesday night, saying New York City subways, buses and commuter rails would be free of charge Thursday and Friday as a way to encourage people to use mass transit. Gridlock on Wednesday was "dangerous," he said.
But not all of the city's transit was operating. Fourteen of the city's 23 subway lines are opening Thursday, with buses helping to cover the unserved areas, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joe Lhota said.
But there will be no subway service to lower Manhattan, which is still dealing with flooding and power outages, he said. And bus service, which resumed Thursday, was stopped below 23rd Street because the area is still dark and too dangerous, Lhota said.
The three major New York-area airports will all be open Thursday, albeit with limited service, authorities said. John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty reopened Wednesday with limited service, and LaGuardia -- where floodwaters covered runways and taxiways -- will reopen Thursday.
Many people across the region are still in need of basic supplies. President Barack Obama visited a shelter Wednesday in the hard-hit town of Brigantine, New Jersey, where he said he met a woman with an 8-month-old who has run out of diapers and formula.
"Those are the kinds of basic supplies and help that we can provide," he said.
Obama promised the federal government "will not quit" until communities are cleaned up.
"We are not going to tolerate red tape, we are not going to tolerate bureaucracy," Obama said. "And I've instituted a 15-minute rule, essentially, on my team. You return everybody's phone calls in 15 minutes, whether it's the mayor's, the governor's, county officials.
"If they need something, we figure out a way to say yes."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie asked for patience as crews worked to turn the power back on for more than 2 million people still in the dark. He toured Brigantine with Obama, who said utilities from across the country have pledged to send crews to New Jersey as soon as possible.
Sandy came ashore late Monday in southern New Jersey, wiping out houses, pushing sand four blocks inland in places and leaving people stranded.
Seventy people were rescued Wednesday from the barrier island in Toms River, New Jersey -- people who ignored orders to evacuate, Police Chief Mike Mastronardy said.
"Everyone that we've encountered during evacuations today wish they'd left prior to the storm," he said.
Authorities are still working to extinguish 11 of 30 gas fires that broke out in the storm, he said. Flooding was still a problem in many areas.
Over its entire path, the storm killed at least 124 people -- 67 in the Caribbean, 56 in the United States and one in Canada.
The fire that broke out in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Breezy Point during the storm destroyed 110 homes, Assistant Fire Chief Joseph Pfeiffer said. Search and rescue teams were going through each home to check for victims.
"The number of homes lost in Breezy Point by fire is just tragic," Cuomo said Wednesday. "That no one lost their life in Breezy Point is a miracle."
Staten Island saw no such miracle. Half of the state's 28 deaths were on Staten Island, and two boys were missing.
Borough President James Molinaro said the waters have mostly receded, but the damage is severe.
In Seaside Heights, New Jersey, Mayor Bill Akers said his hard-hit town will tough it out.
"We're going to just do the best we can and give the support," he said. "When it's tougher, we're the best community."