The ambulance has been delivered! Thanks to Kathy for uploading the photos!
At the height of Hurricane Sandy, fierce rip currents invaded the streets of Broad Channel, a little spit of an island on Big Egg Marsh in Jamaica Bay, in the borough of Queens, NY.
An evacuation order issued the day before the storm was ignored by many of the town's residents, who are used to being surrounded by water. Several thousand people make up the small community, which is about 20 blocks long and four blocks wide, and is sometimes referred to as the "Venice of New York."
Still, that night, as dusk turned to darkness, as the howling of the wind became shrieks, as the storm surge rose to impossible heights, the resolve of town residents who planned to tough it out faltered. Phone calls flooded into the local fire department from terrified residents, fear and desperation in their voices, wanting to be rescued from the second floors of their homes.
The volunteer firefighers and EMTs from the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department (BCVFD) headed out in the worst of it and managed to rescue more than 30 of their neighbors before the storm overtook them, endangering their lives. Rip currents in the streets grabbed on to one of the volunteers, and they had to save one of their own.
As the waters continued to rise, Tracy Moccio, a BCVFD EMT, was with the ambulance crew ordered to the highest point in town, the American Legion Hall on Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel. As the EMTs raced up to the top floor of the two-story brick building, the ambulances were inundated with water and "drowned," Moccio said.
"We were in the hall at that point," Moccio said. "We were on the second floor and the water came all the way up. It was very, very, very scary. There was no power, there was wind, there were power lines coming down all over." Some of the EMTs thought that maybe that was it for them.
But Moccio, reflecting the attitudes of her fellow volunteer firefighters and EMTS, in her town and all over, said it never was an option to abandon the town, even though there was a mandatory evacuation order. "Even if there were only two people left, we weren't going anywhere," she said.
It was Hurricane Sandy that eventually forced the fire company to temporarily suspend its operations, after the storm broke an air line on a fire truck, and the truck shorted out and caught on fire. For hours, several members of the fire company were unaccounted for and their fellow volunteers feared the worst, Moccio said. When communication was eventually re-established, they were relieved to learn no one had been lost. No one from the fire company, and no one from the town.
Other communities were not so lucky. The death toll from Sandy stands at 196.
At Broad Channel, the volunteer fire company's equipment and headquarters had been decimated. And there is nothing worse than being an EMT without an ambulance following a disaster, when so many need so much, Moccio said.
"Oh my God, it was killing us," she said. "Killing us."
And so she was thrilled to get the call from Madison, CT earlier this month, letting her know that one of our town's old ambulances would soon be on its way to replace one of the two drowned by Sandy. There have been other donations as well and by Thursday afternoon Broad Channel EMTs, once the ambulance from Madison is delivered, will be back up to two.
The ambulance left the commuter lot in Madison around 9 a.m. Thursday, packed with goods donated by people in town, along with two other trailers packed with donated goods, and a small army of men and a woman, volunteers from Madison Ambulance Association, Madison Hose Co. No. 1, the North Madison Volunteer Fire Department, and others from town, who are ready to help out however they can.
The volunteers from Madison are one of several groups from all over the country who are helping Broad Channel recover. In a way, they are part of a bucket brigade of helpers, bringing what they can to make the process of recovery a little faster and a little less painful. And this is entirely appropriate, since the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department itself was formed as a bucket brigade in 1905.
Moccio said she and her fellow volunteers from Broad Channel--who are not only rebuilding their fire company, but also their own destroyed homes and their devastated community--are so grateful they barely even have the words to express it.
"We've been through it, oh yeah," she said. "The only thing is, I really can't stress enough how grateful we are to Madison for this donation. I really, really can't ... "
If you have not yet had a chance to help and would like to do so, here is some information from the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department Facebook page:
"The firehouse is in need of scott air packs for the firefighter, new or gently used gear that is still in commision and able to be used in fires, medical supplies,fire related tools, vhf portable radios, sheet rock, ply wood, drills, and new siding for the building. Anyone willing to help us with any of these items plz contact us @ 718 474 8888 or 917 991 8801 or firstname.lastname@example.org"
"Please consider a donation of $5 or more to help us rebuild our fire house and then share this link with others. Thank you for your support. http://igg.me/p/279740?a=1778964"