Monday, November 26, 2012

A Day in Rockaway NY Post Sandy

Not your typical day at the beach....not your typical beach.
Rockaway NY is home to mostly first responders. Yes, those men and women who risk their lives to help us. The ones who don't hesitate. The Police, Firefighters, EMT's and Paramedics. It is a hometown that was crushed on Sept 11th when so many who call it home were killed when the towers fell. They say they are all family, that they fight for each other and help each other and that they will come back from anything. This is exactly what my family and I witnessed on Nov 17th, 2012 when we spent the day there, handing out supplies, food and clothing. They will come back because they are a community that will not be beaten. We will go back again, they cannot do it alone. I want to share some of the stories from the day. There is no media coverage of this aftermath, so how would you know the need is so great.
We were there on Day 19 after the storm hit. Still no power which means no heat, no lights, and no warm water. There are still families that are looking for loved ones. Still people who cannot be found. Still PILES of sand in front of doorways. Still people without clothing, supplies or food.
A few weeks ago, I found myself asking what can I do, how can I help. I don't have a lot of money to donate, but where does that money go anyway? I want to give to real people who are in need. I want to hand someone a coat or give someone a hug or just a smile. My friend Bridget was asking herself the same thing. Only she posted it on facebook and I saw it. Bang! Let's do it we said and so it began.
We posted on facebook, talked to neighbors and friends and next thing you know, supplies started piling up on on our doorsteps.
Julie came on board and opened up her garage too. Erica started collecting from her neighbors and her preschool and filled her garage and was even going to come with us! Sam started collecting in her garage and told me she was coming with me! My co-workers from Memorial Hospital in York PA started filling up my SUV every time I would end my shift. The company my husband works for, Dent Wizard in Manheim PA, said not to worry, they would rent whatever size truck we needed. Then the township soccer club sent out an email and gave donations. Now, I just needed to find a destination! Not an easy task. So many in need. So hard to choose.
Rockaway NY here we come.
It took endless hours to sort through the many facebook pages that have been created. I knew I had to choose a few places because we may have gotten turned away. So off we started to St Gertrudes parish to deliver our items and serve some hot meals. There were 9 of us all together. 4 Adults and 5 Kids. I cannot believe how hard those kids worked that day.
Friday night, friends and family loaded up the huge 26 foot box truck that was donated by Dent Wizard. My husband works for them and they were so generous in donating that truck. We finished at my house and then were off to Erica's house to load up her stuff!
The kids made fun packets to hand out to children that included a coloring book, crayons, a puzzle, some glow sticks, play dough and fruit snacks. Another friends son had his class write letters to give to the children in need of a smile! (insert watery eye smiley face here!)
 Get a good nights sleep I kept telling myself....ya right! I was so nervous and excited I couldn't sleep. This was my facebook post that night....
I am so nervous. I keep having dreams that we get there and it is not enough. I know that sounds dumb because it is HUGE and amazing what WE all have done. I don't think I considered the next leg of this journey. I am actually dreading the thought of witnessing the devastation first hand. The AMAZINGLY positive attitudes of those who are affected and displaced is what keeps me going AND the support from my friends, neighbors, family and coworkers. We are headed to Rockaway with YOUR supplies and donations and will post photos. They have asked us to help cook and deliver hot meals to those in need while we are there (I heard they delivered 650 meals last Saturday!).....Anyone who would like to go is welcome to come! We are leaving at 9am.
Thank you, you are all so generous and caring! we go!
The boy could not wait to ride in the truck with daddy! Armed with bagels, water and coffee....we were off. I drove ahead of the truck to lead the way with Sam (love you) as my copilot and 4 girls in the back!
We stopped off to pick up my dad (love you) who also followed us.
Well, the drive did not go as planned. We had a truck with a 13 inch clearance....the roads we needed to get on only had an 11 inch clearance. Yep, we had to drive right through the city streets with that big truck and our crew. Man can that husband of mine drive a truck! Just like he belongs there! Felt sorry for my dad who was driving behind him and had to witness all the close calls along the tiny streets of Staten Island and Brooklyn. Yikes! So the 3 hour trip turned into 5.
We also failed to think about tolls and gas along the way! 100.00 for a half tank of diesel gas!!
What What....some tolls were 26.00 for that truck. Live and learn! Love it!
Well, we finally did get across the bridge to Rockaway. The sights we saw were unspeakable.
From what I understand, this used to be a golf course and they are now using it to pile debris from the roads. There is plenty of debris to fill it more that 10 times I am sure.
We attempt to make it to our first destination....St Gertrudes. Not so much. We cannot get the truck there due to road closures and debris. No traffic lights, so there are officers at every corner. Scattered about are signs for help needed. A few blocks had set up tents with grills where some people handed out food. My favorite part was the line of food trucks....passing out free food to those in need and those who were volunteering. What we saw looked like a Hollywood movie scene. It looked like Godzilla walked by and stomped on homes, cars were flipped over onto front lawns, there were piles of sand covering front doors.
Ok...get a grip Sam says! What's the next place on the list. We are on a mission and will complete it. So off we were a few blocks back to St Frances De Sales. We pulled up and heard someone say they cannot possibly take any more donations. Out of the car Sam goes and quicker than that, she is back with good news! They would LOVE our stuff!
So, along with many volunteers we started to unload.
They were thankful for the organization and the labels. So glad about that, because we spent a lot of time making sure we weren't making any more work for them. We wanted to get this stuff to them as organized as possible. Nailed it!
I will never forget the line....the parents with children. Waiting for hours for the chance to get into the gym at this church. The chance to get baby formula, or Clorox or water, hoping there is some left by the time they get their turn. I will NEVER forget the little girl who tugged on mine and Sam's arm and asked if we had a warm coat she could have.
We all had stories from the day we will never forget. Sam had a woman come in wet and muddy and asked if she could please have a dry pair of jeans, she had been cleaning her home. When Sam told her "of course, here have 2 and you need a shirt also"....the woman said "oh no, I couldn't possibly take more than my share, there are so many of us in need". Question of the day was when a man asked my husband Ron "do you have any clean underwear?" Ron took him into the clothing tent to look. He said he had been wearing the same underwear for 3 weeks. I guess, no clothes, no laundry. Many came in for blankets, gloves, coats and hats.
We spent the day in the clothing tent sorting out donations. We had to spend all day going through bags of clothes that people donated separating the summer items from the winter items. Summer stuff to goodwill for later use, winter stuff into the tent for use now.

We started to lose daylight and there were just a few lights on generators. We were working as fast as we could and knew we had to get back on the road to come home, we had children with us. And that BIG truck....oh that big truck! Two hours went by and we couldn't leave. I know if we didn't have the kids we would have stayed through the night. It was heartbreaking to walk away. One of the hardest things I ever had to do. Walk away from someone in need.
"We met some amazing people who were working like dogs to help those in need" Sam posted on her facebook page that night. One couple from Boston arrived Friday at 1am and got to work as soon as they arrived. They were a bit sleep deprived when we met them, sorting through clothes....
Yes folks, someone actually donated a tutu! We met so many kind hearted people that day.
NY will rebuild.
The spirit and hope was even greater than the devastation.
They asked us to never forget they are there and in need. I guaranteed that we could never forget.
I know there is not much media coverage on this tragedy. The devastation is so widespread and there are so many in need. In Ocean County NJ, some haven't even been allowed to return to see if their homes are still standing. I just cannot imagine this. Families and elderly....homeless. Sam went back this past Saturday and returned with some good news. She said the streets were cleaner and the traffic lights are working. Still no power to homes or businesses. Still COLD and DARK. But getting better by the day. We will return again Dec 8th. I will post updates and photos. I don't know where this journey will take us, NY or NJ, wherever the greatest need is. I hear Manaloking and Union Beach were hit really hard and there is a lot of help needed in Sea Bright, NJ.
I want to thank each and every one of you who came along with me on this adventure. I say adventure because we didn't know what we were getting into, not because it was going to be fun. I want to thank all of you who made it happen, those of you who donated goods and those of you who donated time. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. There are many people whose lives were made a little easier that day because of YOU. You gave them hope...someday they will get their lives back in order....until then,
 Love, Stacey

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