Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Rockaways

I've been wanting to write this post all weekend and week but just haven't found the words to. I'm not quite sure I even have now, but I'm here to share.

Last Friday I decided to volunteer out in Rockaway beach, about an hour bus ride from Manhattan. As I mentioned, we were barely affected (other than not having to work for a week) during Hurricane Sandy and I was feeling like I needed to give back somehow. I woke up early, got on a bus and by 10 a.m. was standing wide eyed and heavy-hearted on the beach. Just a few months ago, my colleagues and I had taken a trip out to the Rockaways and it couldn't have been more different than last Friday.

We had shovels, trash bags, gloves, masks and brooms. The clean-up crew gave us an address and off we went. From the outside, the first house seemed okay. Then, the owner took us to the basement where her two sons lived. Completely destroyed and soaked through - nothing was salvageable. I threw away photos, golf clubs, a fish tank, beer cans (they must be teenager boys), and shampoo, not to mention more dirt and drywall than I'd like to remember. The water went to the top of the ceiling, leaving dirt and sand everywhere. Here it is on the sink.

And, speaking of sand, the streets were covered. The sand was thrown from the beach to the sidewalks, miles and miles back.

At the second house, we spent nearly two hours shoveling sand from the yard to the street because the sanitation department wouldn't pick it up unless it was three feet from the curb. The owner of the house was in the hospital and her daughter had tried to shovel it herself but there was just too much to do. When we spoke to her, she just seemed lost.

After the second house, we walked down the next street and saw that house after house was burned to the ground. If you watched 60 Minutes on Sunday, then you may recognize my iPhone photos. It was bad. So bad. I don't think you can quite grasp how horrible this area is unless you go. We all teared up. This town (and street) has seen it's fair share of heartache. Just watch the 60 Minutes clip and you'll see.

With only an hour left, we decided to go back to the church and help unload supplies. Towels, toothpaste, trash bags, clothing, blankets, etc. filled the gym walls. It's great to see so many give supplies. But, what these people really need is volunteers to help clean up. I only visited three houses and it took an entire day to clean up and we only touched the surface of the issues. I can't imagine how many houses haven't even been helped yet. It's not something that will be fixed soon.

If you are interested in volunteering, here is the organization that I went through. Say prayers people. These folks need them.

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