This past weekend, Zack, Zigi, and about 40 University of Maryland Terp Alumni went out to Staten Island to help with Hurricane Sandy Relief. I have to say, the pictures do not do justice to the amount of devastation out there. Although I had seen photos and TV news reports of the destruction, it didn’t really hit home until I was walking around seeing it with my own eyes and talking to people who had lost everything. Houses were completely destroyed, houses and cars were moved from where they had originated, pavement was caved in around restaurants, windows were smashed, the streets were still partly flooded, and there was still no power restored to the area. Seeing lower Manhattan get cleaned up so quickly, most people probably think others areas have been cleaned up as well. Let me tell you, this is not the case. There is still so much to be done.
Saturday morning we loaded up our car full of supplies (thanks to $600 worth of donations from friends and family) and brought it to a drop off location where there were local police and volunteers ready to gladly accept. I noticed there was an overwhelming amount of clothing, and people had been so generous. But the real work was up ahead. We literally demolished the inside of a house that had been completely water logged. Luckily the foundation of this particular house was solid (I cannot say the same for the two next door – I am pretty sure those will need to be bulldozed). The owner of the house we worked on will be able to reconstruct, but the inside had filled with so much water that everything inside had to be thrown out (including the drywall and insulation). We spent the entire day hauling old heavy furniture and trash bags full of soggy wet drywall out to the street for trash pick up. We shoveled and shoveled, and it felt like we would never be finished. I felt horrible for this poor family. However, I did notice that they had friends there to help as well as volunteers. You could feel a sense of camaraderie and unity in the neighborhood of everyone being there to help each other get through this tough time, and that was nice to see. I don’t think I have done that much intense physical labor in a long time, but it was all worth it to have the homeowners’ faces shining bright afterwards knowing how much we were able to accomplish. The entire University of Maryland crew was able to clean out about 7 houses total that day. That being said, looking around the neighborhood, there was so much more work to be done, and this neighborhood was only a small part of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy. They need a lot more help and volunteers for all the rest of the groundwork that needs to be completed. It makes me extremely sad, and I hope to volunteer again this week and as long as they need help.
If you are interested in helping with the relief, I posted some ways you can participate on my blog last week. Here is the link for your reference.