|More than 150 homes were destroyed from a fire in Breezy Point, NY the night Hurricane Sandy hit the Atlantic Coast. Photo by CNCS.|
In the weeks leading up to Sandy, my team and I were working at the Region IV Headquarters in Atlanta. We were working in different departments on a few different projects. Some were locating resources and creating spreadsheets, some were helping with the Great Southeast Shakeout, and others were sorting through old disaster documents and filing them accordingly. We had settled into a normal everyday job, unaware that we were about to respond to one of the biggest Hurricanes of our time.
As Sandy neared, we were sent to the Emergency Management Institute in Maryland to wait out the storm and await deployment. We sat with the rest of the country and watched the devastation unfolding on the news and ready to get out to help.
My team spent the next few months at Disaster Recovery Centers in the Rockaways and Staten Island. We arrived as one center opened, saw hundreds of survivors a day who needed assistance, and stayed until the crowds dwindled and the center closed. Within 48 hours, five mobile disaster recovery centers were opened, and $1.7 million in Individual Assistant grants were approved. We learned to do case work and help survivors to get assistance. We made an impact, whether a small or big one.
A year later and I realize how blessed I was to be a part of this response. This program showed me that regardless of everything, when disasters strike there are people willing to help. I learned that the people of the East Coast are some of the most resilient people around. I witnessed survivors who had just lost everything forgetting about themselves to help a neighbor.
The program and the work I did there had a huge impact on me. It helped me decide what I want to do as a career. Through the devastation, I've learned that I want to be a first responder. I want to be the first boots on the ground to help someone when they need it, and I would not have realized it without this program.
I'm amazed and humbled to sit and look at pictures today of different sites in New York. To see homes being rebuilt in Breezy Point and across New York and New Jersey gives me hope. No matter what happens, we will be there to help our neighbors and we will rebuild.