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 Volunteering after the Storm

Yes, she has a name, it’s Hurricane Sandy. Why is it all the bad storms are named after girls names? This was one of several thoughts as driving in New York. It might seem they are named after girls but in fact the storm centre has a rotating list of names both boys and girls that are used. Just so happens that the bad storms we seem to remember are girls names, lol.  Like Hurricane Katrina August 23, 2005, Hurrican Lisa October 5, 1998, Hurricane Hazel October 5, 1954 I don’t remember Hazel but I think we will always remember Hurricane Sandy  on October 29, 2012.

New York, I love this City and would love to go into the City, but for now, we are needed somewhere, just where – we are not sure of. We stop for coffee and make a plan. Ok, so seeing as we are not finding any notices for help in about New York and we fear to go to Long Isand because maybe the sand and debris haven’t been cleared away from the streets. We decide to head to Staten Island and kills pond is a spot we beachcombed before so we will take a couple of hours out and then move onto where we can be helpful.

 We didn’t get to the beach because as soon as we were 10 or more blocks from the beach, each street corner had police on it directing traffic. I don’t think I’ve seen this many city police before but they sure have a bunch in the NYPD. Oh, we tried to get to the beach but it had more police and was taped off and closed because of damage. Looks like from where we are, being 10 blocks up from the beach is where the storm surged up from the beach. Large trees were in places never planted, houses had moved off the foundations, cars were piled at the ends of the streets pushed into each other on the roads from being washed away with the wave, oh and debris, garbage, furniture, everything you could think of was here and there. I saw a crew of men, boys, and teenagers walking the street carrying picks, shovels, and axe hammers. Then I yelled to the French Gardener to pull over and I stepped out onto the street in my good black leather shoes and walked through the mud to get where a crew of people seemed to be coming and going from after receiving instructions so I figured this would be a starting point for us. I looked around for who I thought might be in charge and I found her. I yelled after her as she walked away and she turned with a scowl as she faced me. I told her were we had come from and that we were here to help out, anything she needed we were ready to do. She asked me if I’d ever demolished a house before and could I as the floors, sheet rock, walls, furniture and belongings needed to be removed from a house that was almost covered in water and the mold was setting in. I told her I’d change my clothes and park the car and be right behind her, she didn’t turn around as she yelled while pointing, “the shovels are over there, get a pair of gloves on in that tent there.”

We parked the camper in an empty lot right beside where camp was set up and that became our door step for the next week and a few. Quickly we changed our clothes and headed for that tent with the gloves and garbed a shovel. Then I got a tap on my back from someone else who said, “hey, you guys here to help out?” to which we answered, in anyway we can. “Good, follow me I need you over here.” We canvassed 6 streets, with about 20 to 30 houses per street checking in on people and bringing them supplies of water, clean masks, clean gloves, and noting if they had any needs. We found the neighbourhood was full of cats. As I walked up to a door sitting outside was a wet soggy photo album with wedding pictures that looked so beautiful at one time and I could tell from the dress and hair these were taken back in the early 70’s, most likely a keepsake. After talking to the owner she pointed out everything they had ever owned was in garbage bags sitting on the street, somehow the keepsake didn’t seem to be that big of a deal to be sitting by itself all wet and dirty like that. As I turned to walk down the steps two cats scurried away.

The streets were full, the houses empty, the people walked about in disbelief. I talked with a man who I found sitting on his stoop out front. He told me his name was Stephen and his business was sitting in those bags I see right over there full of water. Camera bags he was a photographer and everything else he had was either in garbage bags on the street or about to be part on the street. “I’ve lost everything in this storm.” what do you say to that? He asked us were we were from and reluctantly I told him, for the first time he looked up from the cement step and smiled at me and said, “God Bless, you people have come all this way to help us out?” Then he took us inside, “come in, come in and have a look for yourself at what water can do.”I was puzzled as to what face to put on knowing he had been struggling for days cleaning out his house and throwing away his personal possessions. I must say there was nothing in the house, not a thing, the clean up crew had been in and he was thankful at that to get the wet sheet rock off the walls and the hardwood off the floors before it started to mold and take over everything. He showed me where the waterline had been on his walls and it was 7 feet up the walls the drywall had been removed. The neighbours house was in his backyard and so was a lot of his neighbours belongings, hell the stuff in his yard could have come from blocks around.

We had to move on to other houses it was getting darker and the temperature had dropped considerably. Most people had red restricted 8×10 sheets on their doors, others had yellow and white meaning can’t inhabit because of water and electrical damage, while others had green sheets that were safe to enter. We found some still staying in their homes on the second floor while the first had been gutted. Others we talked to like most had decided to stay out the storm in their homes and spent the night in the crawl space of the attics, listening to their neighbours screaming for help. When I asked why they remained in their homes they told me the last hurricane cost a lot of money to evacuate time and effort. The storm turned out to be nothing after everyone had gone to so much trouble, so they just decided to stay. We had sheets of information to bring back to the camp, we had told all we knew about the hot meals, and what was going on over the next few days. As we walked back I’m sure I counted 7 cats eating out of a spilled bag of cat food that someone had opened and left on the door step. Yet more cats further on down the street. Back at camp we handed in our sheets and were told to get into the line up and get some hot food and join the others around the open fire.

It was here that I found out that we had joined up with 3 motorcycled clubs and their extreme efforts to set up a relief camp as well a number of the guys from Occupy Wall Street were running the camp in the day time. So this became our home as this place needed help and we didn’t need to look any further.

Over the next couple of days we found that we were most useful and needed in the supply tent where as a couple we organized and sorted truckloads of supplies that came from schools, business, donations from as far away as you can imagine, we had Red Cross drop of clean up kits, companies drop off cases of sorted cleaning supplies that we later divided up into bins. Another thing we had was hotels had sent boxes and boxes of shampoo, conditioner, soaps, creams and sanitize  It took the full of us two days to keep the supplies that were coming in organized with the already ones we had. Then, that night questions started to get asked. Others found out we were from Prince Edward Island and we had a restaurant, cooked and had done catering. Funny thing, we were tired and would turn in around 7pm most nights and the gang would sit up till the wee hours and so we were first up starting coffee at 6:30 getting the food on for the street workers and all who came to eat. Most of the food was dropped off already prepared but there was a lot of food made like homemade soups and stews and chili, and Ziti… Ya, what’s ziti that is what I first said. It is a pasta the big canal noodles with pasta sauce and I believe cheese I didn’t see any meat in it and i didn’t try it only because I’m not able to digest some foods yet after my surgery. Where was I, oh ya turning in for the night but sometimes we sit around the fire with the guys and talk about them occupying wall street, well I wanted to know what in hell that was all about and it wasn’t like I could just Google it, I didn’t have any internet, phone or tv, none of which seemed to matter, oh and no shower either but that matters, ya a big one. I’m laughing because we are about 30 minutes from Jennifer’s and I have no idea how she is going to receive us.
Let me just say, we have been walking the streets, cleaning chard pots, sitting around a smoky fire at night, organizing supplies and boxes that have come on open trucks full of dust, we haven’t showered, our clothes we haven’t changed since we arrived at camp and I’ve got only one lens left in my glasses. Ya, a lady was grabbing at a container of comet as I was reaching for a bag for her and my glasses got broken. I have the lens but need to get them fixed somewhere. And you know what, worse we were to be at Jennifer’s for Thanksgiving and that was last Thursday and today is Wednesday of the following week. But I haven’t seen her in two years and I”m starting to get weepy now that we are getting closer so I’m going to go and clean my one lens so it looks good and I’ll finish this another time. God Bless all the Volunteeers, helper, and the children.

The finish…. We  had been delivered a box of paper bags from a school the kids had made up lunches for the volunteers and for the victims who had lost everything. The outsides of the paper bags were decorated and on the insides the kids hand written notes and attached beads to them as a token of love, friendship, memory and of  a time no one will forgot. All of the beads were distributed and given out to all, most of the volunteers wear them as zipper pulls, key chains and belt decor as a reminder, God Bless the Children and Volunteers of Storm Sandy.

Then I got to thinking about all the beach glass I had picked up off the beach that had come ashore during the Hurricane Sandy, and what do I like to do? Ok its no secret I like to wire wrap, but this was special, it was here for the community and so was I.  So I sat that night and wire wrapped about 36 pieces of glass, next day another 30 or so and then the last day before leaving we wrapped again, hoping everyone had one.  We put the pendents on fishing line and put them around our necks and each time someone came into the supply tent we told them what it was and gave them a token of Sandy. 

P.S. my next post will be short – I promise 🙂

cindy


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I looked at devastation on the faces of people we went door to door checking on yesterday. Some smiled and welcomed us in to have a look, while others are so overwhelmed with despair that word don’t come to them easy.  We are set up at the bottom of a street on Staten Island where cars piled 9 blocks away and houses have collapsed and shifted off their foundations. Red stickers mark most of the house warnings of no entrance allowed.  I talked to many who waited out the storm only because one loved one said they weren’t going to leave their homes and some were found in attacks with their cats and dogs when the water kept raising so high they had no choice. 

Fema is set up 2 blocks away with the Red Cross close by. We happened onto The Occupy Wall Street Folks who are calling themselves “The Occupy Sandy” The low riders motorcycle club are our right hand with the organization and team put together to help out those in need. Donations are pouring in, trucks stop in front of us and guys walk to the back of the trucks and unload all the necessities needed for this largely affected area. Throughout the day service vehicles drive the streets while on-lookers start to come by with cameras clicking in disbelief. All night last night police patrolled and chased looters away from unattended houses damaged by Hurricane Storm Sandy. Electricity is getting back to a few of the houses but they are still not liveable. Cleanup crews in great numbers go from one house to another emptying home after home of every last personal possession onto the streets for the sanitation trucks to pick up. After a house is emptied, the crew goes in and removes all the tile, wood floor, rugs, and floor down to the joist. The walls are not left untouched as they are striped of drywall, or any paneling they once had.  Most houses have a water line of 6 feet high in the homes, leaving only 2 feet of wall untouched to meet the ceilings. 


 

 

Last night around an open fire pit each other was asking where the other volunteers came from.  We had to explain where Prince Edward Island was, but most had heard of Canada and where astounded we had come that far to help out.  After they found out we had a restaurant it was the only thing to do but to put us into the kitchen tent serving the food to all. The tent filled with those affected by Hurricane Sandy this morning coming for coffee or something to eat, all grateful, blessing us and saying, “your the ones from Canada Ah?”

God Bless


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