Upon arriving in Breezy Point, New York, it was evident that two months had passed since Hurricane Sandy occurred. Actually, it seemed like much more time than two months had lapsed—from the lack of volunteers present, you’d have thought that all that virtually needed to be done to repair the damage had been done. It struck me as quite strange that there were so few volunteers, especially when I saw just how much damage there was in the homes and land that had been affected. It was essentially a ghost town—homes that needed an immense amount of work were just sitting there, waiting for someone to come help.
The devastation included an immense amount of water damage, mold, and debris—to a horrifying extent which necessitated essentially the complete demolition of the homes our group was assigned to. One of the houses we worked on required us to pull out a tremendous amount of insulation from the floors and the walls. Actually, the first task I was assigned to do by one of the Israelis who was volunteering with us was to put on a full body suit and get to work pulling out insulation from underneath the floorboards of the house. There were three of us assigned to that task so I decided to take that insulation and put into trash bags (not what I was assigned to do, but equally necessary). Not the most glamorous task in the world, but it needed to be done.
In truth, that is how I would describe most of the work that we did during our three days of volunteering—sure, knocking out drywall with a hammer (trust me, this took all the arm strength I had) may not be the most enticing work to do, but if no one does it, then who will? The house will never be deconstructed and, therefore, will never be reconstructed. So although it may be more exciting to be able to say you built a house and saw that process happen, for me, it was equally exciting to know that the work we were doing allowed these families to start fresh. There can be no starting fresh without putting the past aside, so I was extremely grateful to be a small part of that healing process for them.
by Jamie Friedman