The cost of the cleanup after Superstorm Sandy battered New York, New Jersey and parts of the East Coast is still relatively unknown as more and more devastation rises to the surface. One of the most important operations currently, as Fox Business Network's Liz MacDonald reports, is that of sanitation workers compiling, separating, and shipping out the debris at different landfills throughout the area.

In the parking lot of Jacob Riis Park, a common beach destination for local residents, the remnants of the lives of neighboring towns span the length of 10 football fields and stand the equivalent of about two floors in height. The weight? About equal to that of the Empire State Building.

And this is just one landfill.

MacDonald shared one element she's found scattered throughout the dump that's a stark reminder of memories lost -- family photos of those watching their whole lives crushed into one expansive mound of trash.

"What's in that debris pile is what everybody on the peninsula owned ... from furniture to walls, floors, mementos to anything that's been handed down personally ... it's their lives; it's everything they've ever owned," said Assistant Chief of Sanitation Joe Hickey. "We had families showing up down here asking if they could retrieve [certain possessions]. Once we showed them the operation, they left in tears."

Sanitation workers like Hickey are now being called the new first responders as the disaster response begins to switch modes. Hickey also dealt with the cleanup after the last event to hit the New York City area with such a need - September 11, 2001. He talked about how the two compare to one another.

"[This is] a different ball game ... it's a much bigger scale operation, but we were on top of it from day one," he said.