Hurricane Sandy one month on - Irish Day of Action reveals many still hurting in the Rockaways
Many still without power and heat one month after hurricane hit
With all the debris cleared from the basement, we have done all we can for Buddy today. He walks us out through his front gate and thanks us for our help, offering us some plants growing on his porch as a gesture of thanks.
One volunteer tells him we will come back in the summer, to see them in full bloom.
The wind blows sand into our faces as we make our way back to the base of the Small Water charity on 183 Beach 96th Street. Almost a month on, there is still a thick carpet of sand on the streets.
An Irish Tricolor hangs from one digger that is gathering debris. Wrecked cars line the streets as mini diggers gather the sand. “Hooters Not Looters” reads graffiti on a garage door. A lone man walking his Alsatian dog smiles at us as we pass him by.
Back at Small Water, where a large two-storey home has been transformed into a distribution center, people are arriving with supplies. We grab some cleaning equipment before we head to our next task just one block over.
After a short walk we arrived at red brick building where Joshua and his family live, just a block from the beach. With the basement already gutted and the debris removed, we worked on disinfecting the downstairs of his home. Mould was the biggest concern for the father of three.
“We need to spray the mould with vinegar,” Joshua explains to us.’
We sprayed the rafters down. We washed the walls and pipes with bleach. We mopped the floor. We cleaned the family bicycles which were still covered in a thick coat of dirt and sand.
As he began mopping the floor, Joshua seemed content with the progress. More than three weeks after Sandy hit his family finally got heat and power back on Thanksgiving Day.
On a day when Americans traditionally give praise for all the things they value in their lives, he told us, his family was thankful they were able to have a hot shower.
As we left, he embraced each of us with a heartfelt hug as he repeatedly thanked us for taking the time to help.
Back at base on Beach 96th Street, our group of volunteers huddle in the makeshift medical supplies room upstairs to eat our packed lunches.
Michelle Cortez, a Rockaways resident and the leader of the Small Water charity, drops in and shares her concerns with us about the future of the neighborhood. She is disappointed with the lack of federal assistance.
“Given the amount of money the Red Cross has raised, it should be annoying how much we see them. Their presence should be huge,” she says.
A tall brunette, Cortez is dressed in overalls and several layers as she tells us she returned from a two month surfing trip right before Sandy hit. Her new full time job is helping her neighbors through the Small Water charity, alongside a handful of full time volunteers.
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