Earlier this month, eight Baltimore City firefighters, including one Susquehanna Hose Company volunteer, took a truck filled with donations to Hurricane Sandy victims.
Here is their story, as provided by Brian Minutoli, who lives in Havre de Grace, volunteers for the Hose Company and is a professional firefighter for Baltimore City in Sandtown. His words are in italics:
The team of eight left Baltimore City around 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8, and headed for the Susquehanna Hose Company firehouse on Chapel Road.
[We] were met by numerous members of the Hose Company who were on hand to assist in packing up the rest of the truck.
Due to the generous amount of donations supplied by the citizens of the Havre de Grace area, we were unable to fit everything that had been collected in one truck. We packed as many supplies as we could...and left for New York City around 4:15 p.m.
The truck stopped several times on the way to New York because of fuel shortages further north, Minutoli said. Around 20 to 30 cars waited, on average, in lines at gas stations around New York.
When they got to FDNY Squad 252 on Central Avenue in Brooklyn, Minutoli and his comrades unloaded donations for the four members of the Brooklyn station who lost everything during the storm.
Due to the huge outpouring of support we received from Baltimore and Havre de Grace residents, we had more supplies than the members at Squad 252 needed.
We made some phone calls and were told that the Rockaway Point Fire Department was still looking for supplies.
Around 9:30 p.m., the group headed out again.
As we got closer to the Rockaways, it became apparent that this area suffered severe damage during the storm. The usually busy area was completely dark and occupied only by emergency vehicles driving up and down the streets with their flashing lights on.
Once we crossed the Marine Parkway Bridge, we were met by a roadblock set up by the NYPD. They were not allowing anyone into the area except for emergency personnel. We explained our situation and were allowed to enter.
We drove several more blocks in complete darkness. The smell of the houses that had burned during the storm was still in the air.
Around 10 p.m., the group arrived at the Rockaway Point Fire Department.
The only light in the area was run by a NYC OEM generator out in the parking lot. A burn barrel was burning firewood in the parking lot to keep personnel warm. The wind was still howling.
Different areas in the parking lot were set up for different types of supplies. We stacked hundreds of cases of water outside in the parking lot next to hundreds of other cases that were already there. We carried boxes of food and cleaning supplies inside a community building that was being supplied electricity by a generator.
Volunteers sorting donations inside were happy to see cleaning supplies, said Minutoli.
They informed us that they were having a "mega-clean" on Saturday and all of those supplies would be beneficial. They were also happy to see the construction items. A small 3-gallon gas can that had been donated appeared to be a "hot item."
The only items that they turned down were the diapers, baby supplies and dog food. They informed us that they had more than enough and just about everyone with a baby or pet had already left the area. We kept those items in the truck and returned them to Havre de Grace. They were packed in the second truck and delivered to New Jersey [by the Susquehanna Hose Company] on Saturday.
At approximately 11 p.m., Minutoli said the truck that originated in Baltimore was unloaded.
We stood around the burn barrel with the Rockaway members and asked what supplies they could use.
They informed us that at this point they would need construction tools, building supplies [and] electrical supplies. Someone suggested gift cards to Home Depot and Lowe's.
We heard a story about a plumber who lost everything he owned and cannot even get back to work because he has no tools left.
Supposedly all of the stores in NYC and Long Island are sold out of much needed items like circuit breakers, electrical panels and water heaters.
We left the Rockaways and stopped for a bite to eat before heading home to Maryland. We arrived back in Baltimore around 4 a.m. and were able to get a couple hours of sleep before heading in to work at www.bcfd8x10.com.
I would say that everyone on the trip was surprised by the fact that gas stations were still without gasoline. We were also surprised about the amount of damage that occurred in the Rockaways.
The water level rose very high and hearing about all that everyone lost was terrible. There were blocks and blocks of empty houses that had all of their water-damaged belongings stacked up in front of the house waiting to be picked up by garbage trucks.
On our way out, when we were past the roadblock, we noticed a bunch of cabs sitting on the side of the road. We were later told that cabs are the only way people who live in the area can get back to check on their houses. Most lost their house AND their cars. There was still no bus or train service into the area at that time either.
The Rockaways was deemed "too devastated" for the major electricity supplier to work on restoration, according to the Queens Tribune. As of Thanksgiving, NY1 News reports that many in the Rockaways remain without power and heat.