Hurricane Sandy Relief (PART 2): Long Days and Hard Work

On November 16th, our team along with other volunteers met at the Wyandanch Volunteer Fire Company in New York to unload the donated goods that had been brought with us. These donations came from a number of organizations and individuals that wanted to help us make a difference. The support from the community in North Carolina was unbelievable, and within two days of donation drives, they packed a full-size tractor trailer full. The volunteers and members of the Charlotte Firefighters loaded the trailer earlier in the week.

In Hurricane Sandy Relief (Part 1): If These Walls Could Talk, I mostly covered how our team came together and the house that we stayed in. You can read it by clicking here.

Patty Poulin, wife of FDNY Battalion Chief Frank Poulin, was in charge of distributing supplies. I was amazed at how organized she was in regards to what equipment was needed where. We unloaded the trailer pallet by pallet and loaded the donation in to two smaller box trucks, a pull behind trailer, and a flatbed trailer. Some of the supplies were taken to members of the FDNY and their families, members of E-217, and to other distribution centers. As some of our members distributed supplies, others headed out to begin demo work on the houses.

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It had been two weeks since the Hurricane struck and lots of work had been completed. The city was working tirelessly to remove debris and garbage from the streets. We worked in many different areas over the next two days. Broad Channel, Breezy Point, Lindenhurst, Oceanside, Roxbury, and the Rockaways were many of the areas that we focused our efforts. Firefighters are known to always help others, yet we seem to not ask for help ourselves. Some of the houses we would arrive at and be turned away not because they didn’t need the help, but instead because they stated others needed the help more.

The houses that we focused on demo’ing on Friday and Saturday were mostly members of the 217 family. Patty had also gone door to door and received phone calls about others needing help. She had planned out a schedule of places for our groups to go. Once one group would finish up a job, we would meet up with the others to help them knock out the next one. By our calculations, we worked on around 8 houses in two days. Some of these involved clearing debris from around the house, and others involved a full demo of water saturated sheetrock, insulation, flooring, and appliances. This is work that the homeowners would have had to pay a contractor to come in and do, but instead we knocked it out rather fast. When you have 11 firefighters with hammers, mauls, crowbars, shovels, and brooms, you are able to get a lot accomplished.
While working along side many of the homeowners, we heard the stories about the night of the storm. There were many HEROES throughout all of the communities that night. Everyone came together to ensure that more lives were saved than lost that evening. One of the stories involved a couple walking through waist deep water carrying their children to reach a neighbors house that had an upper level. Patty also told us about a neighbor who had tied knots in a rope, and had each member of the family wrap their hand through the rope to swim out of their house. The stories alone would bring tears to your eyes, and many of the residents would shed tears telling about their experience. With as much damage as occurred, many of the insurance companies are denying assistance. It’s just not right! On the outside, many of the houses seemed to be fine. It wasn’t until you entered the house and began tearing out the walls that you saw the mildew that had already set in. Several of the basements we worked in still had 6-8 inches of standing water.

In the grand scheme of things, we weren’t able to assist a large quantity of residents. The only way we were able to make a difference is one house at a time. We took every needed step to help clean up so that the contractors could begin the construction to rebuild. After we would finish tearing out, we would sweep the smaller pieces of debris. We paid much attention to detail in our efforts, and we did not perform in a wreck-less manor. With all the beating and banging of the tools, only one of our team members sustained an injury. It was a minor injury and did not keep anyone from pushing through the blood, sweat, and tears that it took to accomplish our goals.

 

  

The help is still needed in the New York/ New Jersey areas that were effected. Many organizations have established ways for individuals to donate. I have compiled a list below of many ways you can help. In the near future, our team may travel back to New York to assist. Our self-proclaimed name of our team is Task Force 17: Hurricane Sandy Relief. There is an inside story to the name, but I won’t go in to that. Donate, Donate, Donate, and I strongly suggest that if you are able to make the trip to help out…Make a Difference! The friendships I made with the guys I worked along with will never be forgotten. The firefighters that I met while helping the FDNY 217 house will also never be forgotten!

Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund
National Firefighters Endowment First Responders Relief Fund
FF Steven Coakley Foundation
American Red Cross