Some members of the Auburn Fire Department were far from home earlier this week, helping those in Rockaway, Queens affected by Superstorm Sandy. The firefighters were only in Queens for 24 hours, but during that time, they helped evacuate approximately 150 senior citizens from a local nursing home.
One of the firefighters recalls the extent of the storm's damage. "The one area we were in, you could stand on a street corner at a four-way intersection, and there were about a dozen houses that were burned right down to the foundation," said Lieutenant William Difabio.
A second firefighter ticked off a list of things he saw destroyed. "Houses burned up, vehicles in the middle of the street," said firefighter Steve Parker. "Boats - large boats - in the middle of the street, trees and wires down, a lot of power outages, obviously."
Seeing all the damage from Superstorm Sandy was unsettling. "Very, very surreal," said Lieutenant Difabio. "It was very eerie. People were walking around just confused, dazed. People were in shock. You could see desperate looks on their faces. People just lost everything."
For Parker, the power outages were troublesome. "It's just really weird when you're driving down there and all you see if just a black area where, usually, it's a ton of lights...You can't see anything."
The firefighters added that those they assisted were grateful for their help. And that help is what will allow communities in Queens pick up the pieces and rebuild, one day at a time.