NEW YORK – Mounds of garbage and debris are piled along the streets in Staten Island, pick-up being just one of the many services residents haven’t had access to in Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath.
Evidence of people living normal lives just a week ago now lines the curbsides of the New York borough devastated by last week’s superstorm. Appliances, furniture, children’s toys and other everyday items are just dumped at the edge of the streets, since residents ran out of garbage bags to pack them into days ago.
The smell of rotting trash lingers in the air. Power lines hang down onto sidewalks. Cars swept away by the floods sit in unnatural places like the middle of fields or on top of rocks. Slippery, thick brown mud cakes driveways and basements, brought in by the waves and storm surge that flooded the residential neighborhood so fast that people barely had a chance to get to safe places. Some, unfortunately, never did.
But still, when you walk through the streets of Staten Island, what you see isn’t outward anger or sorrow. People are just getting to work, cleaning out their homes and helping each other. Residents from nearby communities drove or walked the streets, offering hot food, water and clothing to those left with next to nothing.
After about 20 Marines landed yesterday in a CH-53 Super Stallion at a park on the edge of the island, they went door to door, offering to assist. The need was different at every new home, and the Marines adapted. Before they were even done helping at one house, neighbors would be calling them to another for help there.
Most were assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 26, part of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. About 300 more Marines with the MEU were anchored about five miles off the coast of New York’s Brooklyn borough aboard the amphibious assault ship Wasp. Others were with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366, out of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.
Also in the region were 87 Marines with Camp Lejeune’s 8th Engineer Support Battalion. They were tasked with pumping water from flooded basements in a low-income housing complex in the city’s Queens borough.
The devastation caused by this storm is huge and will linger for months. The Marines there told me they had never seen anything like it – at least not here in the U.S.
For now, residents in Queens and Staten Island were largely without power nearly a week after the storm hit, with temperatures dipping down near freezing last night.
Marines being there to assist with clearing water and debris helped these people in their desperate time of need. The residents there said they have felt forgotten, and they expressed relief at having the help.
The flights slotted to land back in Staten Island from the MEU this morning were canceled, according to Marine Corps officials. No further details were immediately available. The Marines with 8th ESB will continue their efforts to pump water from the high-rises in Queens through today at least.