Monday, November 19, 2012

Hurrican Relief

While I was wringing my hands wondering how people would ever clean up the mess left by Sandy, others were springing into action.  It didn't take long to get word out that our stake would be volunteering in the Rockaways for two weekends.  The family wards were assigned to go on Saturday and the singles wards would meet for a brief Sacrament meeting and head out on Sundays.  We were instructed to wear work shoes and bring gloves and our own lunch and water.  Because Paul is the Bishop of the Lincoln Square YSA Ward, I decided to serve with them on Sunday.  It was about a 90 minute ride on the D train to school buses and then to our destination in the Rockaways.  Missionaries had been working in the area since the storm and had identified hundreds of homeowners who wanted our help.  We divided into groups of ten and were give two addresses.  At the first home, all we did was carry furniture and appliances from the backyard to the curb.  The second home had been flooded and as the waters receded, tons of sand mixed with oil had been deposited on their driveway.  While some of our team mucked out the basement of the home, the rest of us scraped and swept the driveway.  It was a gooey mess, but we finally got enough of the sand off to hose it down.  With dish detergent and lots of brooms, we were able to clean up the driveway and left the homeowners with a little hope of returning to a new normal.  Having finished our assignments we found another home that had been flooded and started tearing out the basement.  This home had been flooded up past the 1st floor.  We tore out soaking wet wallboard and insulation and hauled it to the street.  Let me stop here and say that this is what is called "mucking out."  The full time missionaries have been mucking out four days a week for the past three weeks.    While destruction is more in my strike zone than rebuilding, this is heavy and difficult work.  Everything had to be ripped out from the floor to the ceiling including the ceiling.  We came home tired and soaked and satisfied.  The people were so grateful for our help.  While we got to come home and have a hot shower, most of the people we helped were still living in their homes without power and running water and no heat.  And yet, many seemed very positive and hopeful and grateful.  The second week was much like the first week except that the water had drained out of the walls and insulation so it wasn't quite as difficult.  We totally gutted a woman's house.  As we were cleaning out the cupboards it was amazing to see how high the water had come up during the storm.  The dishes in the cupboard above the sink were filled with water!
As we walked through the neighborhood we were greeted by many other volunteers from local church groups.  And many people had come on their own just looking for a way to help.  One food truck owner from Chicago drove his food truck to Coney Island and parked for three days serving free hot food to anyone who was in need.   There are countless stories like this of people who didn't wait to be asked;  they just came and did their part to relieve the suffering of so many. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sandy Arrived

Bobby Roberts sings "Big Sandy" in contrast to Terry Allen's "Little Sandy."  "Sandy Here on Earth" was song by John Fahey but who can forget Carlene Carter's "Too Bad About Sandy?"  However so many New Yorkers are singing the song from Grease, "Sandy my darlin, you hurt me so bad, you know it's true....."   Sandy did hit and she left her mark.  Many will be figuring out how to rebuild, clean-up, or move on.  The relief effort continues and not surprisingly there are so many willing volunteers.
Watching a news conference the other night, Mayor Bloomberg said, "We'll get through this, we're New Yorkers!"  I turned to Paul and mentioned that the mayor's remarks made me a little bit teary eyed and it obviously had the same affect on Paul as he was caught wiping away tears.  In unison we called out, "we're New Yorkers!"  I like the sound of that. 
 I need to give a big shout out to so many friends and family who contacted us during the Hurricane named Sandy.  She struck on October 29-30, and Paul and I didn't feel a thing.  Paul was in Hong Kong and I was in Austin.  We were following the news closely because we have many family members,  dear friends and colleagues who were in harm's way.  We were grateful to get reports that all had survived although trees were down and power was out.  Some still do not have power and this is November 6. 
Paul arrived home Thursday after the storm and enjoyed a 21/2 hour ride home from the airport.  Traffic was obviously crazy and the entrance to the Triboro Bridge was down to one lane because they were doing checks on cars to make sure at least three people were in each car.  If not, you were turned away.  (Didn't apply to livery cars or taxis).  My trip home the next day was another story.  I arrived in 30 minutes because people couldn't get gas and just weren't on the roads.  It remained this way right through the weekend. 
We walked through Central Park on Saturday and found many large trees that had fallen during the storm and countless branches.  Interestingly enough, the buildings in our neighborhood that have decks and large trees on the decks, appear to have no damage.  The trees are still swaying in the breeze.  Go figure.
In an earlier post I mentioned our adventure on Jane's Carousel in Brooklyn.  The photo shows how dangerously close the water came to damaging this beautiful landmark. 
Sandy has left us, but we're not singing "why, why, why;" we're saying "we'll get through this, we're New Yorkers!"