Today my wife Lori, daughter Brittany and I volunteered with the Red Cross to help with the Hurricane sandy relief effort on Long Island. Through some sheer dumb luck we ended up arriving a bit late and were drafted to help out at their warehouse in Bohemia, NY. We loaded several trucks with supplies for the 4 zones in Suffolk County that we would be servicing today.
- Mastic Beach
After loading all of the trucks we brought the forth one to Mastic Beach. Upon arrival at the Nutrition Center, 369 Neighborhood Dr, the site organizer assign a team of volunteers to me and we went out into the community to deliver food, water, blankets to distressed families.
They are all amazing people each with their own strengths that helped make our mission extremely successful. We self organized forming a tight cohesive team in a relatively short amount of time. I honestly believe we found our grove by the time we helped provide food and water to our second or third family. Most of us had the most basic of training and were able to discern the necessities of our mission and work very well together. I couldn’t have had a better team.
The following is some of what we observed while we made out way along the coastline of this extremely hard hit community knocking on doors and meeting the families in need. The photos that follow are barely scratch the surface of the disaster that we saw. Somethings like burned down homes I could not bring myself to photograph especially after talking with one of the electrical repair crewmen who told me he saw the occupied dwelling burn to the ground.
All throughout the area we kept seeing these yellow signs as well as similar red ones. Unfortunately, the red ones meant that the dwelling was unsafe and I did not get a photo.
Numerous fallen trees, some like this narrowly missing nearby homes.
A waterfront home that the flood removed the ground floor.
It was interesting to see how selective the water damage was in some areas for instance the camper in this photo next to the disheveled boat is resting on only 4 pillars of cinder blacks stacked approximately 9 high. By all right should have toppled.
Some sights were just too surreal to witness. Honestly I’ve seen some things like seeing the World Trade Center disaster form 6th Avenue and 14th street first hand, but these stairs to nowhere kind of freaked us all out.
Another sight that was extremely unsettling was this twisted and burned out car.
There were some less obvious signs of destruction, and it was amazing how arbitrary the damage was. One house might have minor or even no apparent damage while the neighbor next door lost almost everything. Like this shed that was rolled over.
However just two houses down the street we saw destruction like this:
There were others like this that after first did not seem to have much damage until you took in the flattened trees around the yard. Then it slowly started to sink in that most of this dwelling was under water. We learned form one of the neighbors that the owner vacated.
Some of the devastation was rather extreme. To take these photos of my team member Laura trying to reach the door I am standing on rubble of what was once a garage near the Bar-B-Que pictured near the tope of this article.
Another severely damaged home:
I hope this sample of what we observed help frame the need in this community. While some of these homes were being reconnected power by out of state crews many were not because of flooding. Many people refused to leave their homes even though they had no power, or heat or even running water.
We ran into a FEMA field team from Chicago and I spoke with their group leader and he told me that many people refused to leave their homes because they did not want to abandon their pets. I took his contact information, and Kelise my navigator looked up animal shelters and boarding homes which we eventually passed on.
My amazing team delivered meals, water and blankets to at least 60 families. However, we also spent time meeting these people, many of whom just needed a friendly person to talk with. I’ll not soon forget the pregnant mother of three whose little girls were more excited about the blankets than the food. hey squealed delight yelling to their mom “We got blankets!”
Nor will I forget the smile we brought to the man living alone whose entire one floor home was visibly flooded. He had no power, running water or heat and worse no where else to go. We gave him hope. We listened to him and help him feel safe and that he is not alone.