Here is part of the story of what happened after Brookfield HS received all the donations and we went to Staten Island to help the Hurricane Sandy victims.
This past Saturday, Dec. 1st between 6:15-6:30am eighteen Brookfield High School (BHS) students and a number of adults made up of faculty and staff from BHS and Huckleberry Hill Elementary School as well as from Brookfield’s Town School Office gathered in the parking lot of Brookfield HS. By 6:50am, a
school bus loaded up with donations from the students, faculty and the community that filled the back of the bus to the first five rows of seats was ready to leave. The donations included: clothing, blankets, sleeping bags, food, bottled water, pet food and cleaning products. We had so many donations that the overflow filled up a large rental truck, which was driven by the BHS Principal Palumbo. BHS School nurse, Angela Haselwood, drove her car for other four other adult volunteers, who could not fit on the bus. We were all on a mission to help out the victims of Hurricane Sandy in Staten Island, NY. Without stopping except for traffic and tolls we arrived at our final destination at 10:30 am. The little over 100 mile school bus ride through New Jersey to Staten Island took 3 1/2 hours.
When we first arrived on Midland Avenue, I asked myself, we are we stopping here? The houses look intact, but after getting off the bus, one of the organizers, Tony Hall, took us through a commercial building and showed us that the water had been almost to the top of the door and how they had to gut everything from the building.
To understand better what people were dealing with I found a couple of video clips from YouTube that show what people were facing when the water was in that neighborhood. These photos and videos do not show when the water was at its highest, it shows when the water was draining away. One resident told us that at one time a wave of salt water from the Atlantic Ocean that was 35 feet high came through his neighborhood and pushed other peoples things into his and everyone else’s homes. The water had a mix of sewage, oil from home heating, and other toxic chemicals all mixed in.
Above is a video with an interview with a resident that lives in the Midland Avenue area, a mile inland from the beach. She explains what happened during
the first 24 hours of the storm.
The second is a video that was filmed on the second and third day as the water drained away. A resident from Midland Avenue went out to find his home as the waters were receding showing on Oct. 30-31st. He put at the end of his video that it took two days until he could get into his home and he lost everything that was in his home. He said, “God bless those who lost loved ones.”
The day that we were there, marked the 32nd day that over 12,000 families were still without electricity and heat. I learned that all electricity and gas was turned
off five hours before the storm hit, on Monday, October 29. The flooding affected
virtually every structure: homes, stores, schools within a mile inland. Owners
of these buildings have had to gut the first floor to just the studs and are ripping out the sheet rock, the insulation, the old wiring and even the floorboards. The salt water mixed with toxins ruined everything. Not only all the material goods inside the homes, but the walls, floors, etc.
We spoke with one resident who told us that he has removed 17-30 yard dumpsters of material from his home. The owners are not allowed to have electricity and gas restored until they get their home up to code. Many families are working their jobs and then working on their cold home on the weekends. Some didn’t have second floors, so they had to find shelters or other people’s homes to live in until their home is up to code to in order to be able to reconnect the all of their utilities. We saw everyone working in the buildings wearing respirators to avoid inhaling all of the bad toxins in the air including mold that is now growing on the walls and floors.
We also learned about a program that was developed on 9/11 called www.groundzerofood.org. During 2001, Tony Hall, was a caterer based in Rhode Island. When Tony saw the devastation to the New York residents from 9/11 he started organizing clean food and water for the NYC residents. He then quit his job and formed and non-profit organization called, Ground Zero Food, which on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 was renamed by Tony to “Small Town America Responds (STAR)”.
Tony also helped out the victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and now you can find him as the main organizer of STAR on the corner of Midland Avenue and Moreland Street in Staten Island, NY.
Below is a web link that provides more information about the organization, Ground Zero Food and a bio about Tony, http://www.groundzerofood.org/hall-bio.htm
Also, I am including a link to Cambridge Catering which is a partner with STAR (cambrigecares.org). The idea is to provide hot healthy meals to the victims of disasters such as Hurricane Sandy.
To get an idea of what it used to look like, click here to see a photo of what that corner of Midland Avenue and Moreland Street looked like before the storm, plus it has a map that you can zoom out to see how far away they were from the beach and still received so much water damage.
You can see photos of what the relief program on Midland Avenue looks like now on the STAR Facebook page plus photos of Tony Hall and other volunteers.
Tony and a group of volunteers have set up a tent and are cooking hot meals for the residents. The BHS students and adult volunteers took the hot meals to distribute to the families and community volunteers who are still working on taking debris out of the homes.
It seems that more natural disasters are happening throughout our country
and will continue happening in the future. Knowledge of how to organize a local community when a disaster strikes is very important. Mrs. Haselwood and I
are planning on sharing what we learned to improve the disaster plan for the
We are planning another trip, but have not set a date yet. We will keep you updated on the situation as it develops.
It seems that the need for clothing is ok for right now, but they still need cases of water bottles, canned goods, pet food, and so on. I learned a lot of how they handle donations on a large scale and will share that with the next post.
Thank you to the students, faculty, staff, administrators and community
members who helped to bring donations to Brookfield HS, the Brookfield Police
Department and the Brookfield Town Hall and to all those who went with us to
help the Hurricane Sandy victims. Also, thank you to All Star Transportation for donating their bus and driver.
I will report more as I get feedback from the students and the adults on what they experienced. You can look forward to reading more stories, seeing photos and names of people who participated to follow. In the meantime, I send my support to the people who are rebuilding their lives and still trying to reclaim their homes over a month after the storm.