Saturday morning, A & I went to the Rockaways, to help out at the home of one of A's fellow R-1 firefighters. A had been down there on Thursday with a couple of other guys to bring S the basics - gas for a generator, propane stove, propane heater, milk and other non-perishables. On Friday, 7 guys from R-1 showed up to demo his basement - take out all the damaged items, strip the wallboard and start the cleanup. When we got there Saturday morning, there was a pile 5 or 6 ft high in the street. As we came through Queens, we could see the flood line by looking at where the garbage was still stuck in the trees and fences. You could see the storefronts with the moisture on the inside from having been flooded. Going further, through an area called Broad Channel, there was car after car sitting on the median of a four lane road. They had been towed there as part of the cleanup. Again, you could see the moisture on the inside. There was a boat, blocking one lane, thrown there by Sandy. We get to S's neighborhood and their is sand everywhere, in the streets, the yards, everywhere. Sandy left it there. And now there was trash, as people carted what had once been furniture, insulation, family mementos, appliances, walls, floors - pieces of their lives - out into the street. NYC Sanitation trucks were evident. The gas company was there as well. No real signs of FEMA or the Red Cross though - disappointing. We helped S bleach his walls. to try to prevent mold from growing We carted some more stuff out to the street. A few more R-1 guys came to work on his furnace, with plans to hook him up to get hot water. S was in good spirits. He was most sad at the loss of his books. His girlfriend gave me some of his Christmas decorations, asked could I take them home and try to clean them. They meant more to him than the TV that was lost. I wished that I could do more. I walked down to the beach with his girlfriend. I saw where the boardwalk used to be. In one area, it looked like Sandy had just picked up the boardwalk whole and dumped it a few feet away. The destruction was just incredible. I don't think it overwhelmed me until we went to leave. We went out a different way. This time, we went by where the water was still in the street, some from the storm, some from being pumped out of basements. We saw a store where people were standing outside eating. From their behavior, I think it may have been their first hot meal in days. We saw a burned out row of stores and apartments. We saw home after home with their belongings, now trash, piled out front. A commented that I was very quiet. I told him that I was still taking it all in. This damage that I saw, I think is not the worst damage from Sandy.
Sandy's aftermath also showed the good. I've said in here at times how the FDNY is a family. And it has never been so evident as in the aftermath of this storm. The guys in R-1 are rallying around S, getting him what he needs to continue. This is happening throughout the city - firefighters helping brother firefighters. And not just their brothers from the FDNY, but their brothers' neighbors. The gas we have supplied to S, he shares with his neighbors. I have heard that the DC FD and the Boston FD band members are coming to help out. One of the guys in R-1 offered some construction equipment to help S out, he didn't need it, but the message went back saying that they could use it in Breezy Point.
Power is coming back on in more and more places. Downed trees are cut up and hauled off. Roads are opening, schools are opening. People are going back to work. In the aftermath of Sandy, there is despair, but there is also love and family and friendship.