Niagara Gazette

Features

November 24, 2012

WERTH: A first-hand account of Hurricane Sandy relief

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — Imagine that tomorrow your house is in water five feet deep. Everything the water has touched is ruined and must be thrown out. Everything. In front of your house sits a mountain of garbage: carpeting and padding, wall board, bedding, furniture, appliances, clothing, dishes, kitchenware, pictures and knickknacks. Mixed in is the dark muck of sewage, debris and sand, piled more than several feet high on many streets. Your car has floated blocks away and won’t run when you find it washed up on top of two other cars. Where do you start?

The weekend of Nov. 10-11 was a big push effort when 6,000 one-time Red Cross volunteers, many college students from the tri-state area, came in to the warehouse to pack bags that would be taken to high-rise apartments — and there are many — where people cannot walk down the stairs and up again and carry food and water. Many of these places still have no power so they have no elevators, no heat and no light. Young people were going to run the bags of supplies up the stairs. 

We worked along state and local police, National Guard and firefighters. Volunteers came from around the world to help. We met wonderful Red Cross volunteers from just about every state, Canada and Mexico and felt an instant kinship with each one.

There were moments that made us laugh until we cried and times when we just cried. The times I hated the most where when I was handing out our last blanket or tarp or cleaning kit and there were dozens of out-stretched arms wanting that last item. I couldn’t process how to decide who to give it to so I just closed my eyes and somebody grabbed it. 

There are many stories and many faces that I will carry in my heart forever. It is a life-changing experience for everyone involved. I kept thinking of one of my favorite quotes: We are all just walking each other home. This is going to be a long, sad part of that walk for too many.

Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.

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