ARCADIA - - There are some area residents that are stepping up to help those effected by Hurricane Sandy.
Terina Trotter-Wortman is one of the those people from around the area that has dedicated her time and effort to come to the rescue of the thousands of people who’s lives were left in ruins due to the catastrophic disaster that left many on the Northeastern Seaboard without electricity, homes, and some escaping with just what they could carry or what they were wearing.
Terina was deployed by the American Red Cross for two weeks to Long Island, New York in support of recovery operations after the landfall of Hurricane Sandy.
She received the call on a Tuesday at 6 p.m. and was on an airplane heading for the East coast at 9 a.m. the next morning.
Terina, along with several other volunteers, landed in New York in the middle of the Northeastern storm that followed days after Sandy.
“We rented a car to drive to the motel that we were supposed to stay in, but alot of the tunnels were closed and we couldn’t see the road signs because of the snow sticking to them.” Terina said.
Due to the inability to navigate through the storm they had to stay in a different motel.
The next morning they made their way to the Red Cross headquarters in White Plains, New York. There she met her “flash family" - the 11 people she would spend the next 13 days living and working with, which consisted of EMTs, LPNs and RNs.
Terina, being an EMT from Arcadia, was assigned to Health Services, helping people with minor injuries and sickness, and screening those who’s ailments would constitute the services of advance medical professionals, such as physicians.
Terina and her flash family were housed at the Holy Family Church in Hicksville, NY, a 45-minute drive from the shelter that she would work at. The Holy Family Church housed a kindergarten through eighth grade school that was holding classes while volunteers that worked 12-hours shifts around the clock slept and ate in the gym and cafeteria.
“While school was going the class bell would go off. I wouldn’t worry about going to sleep till after 3:30 in the afternoon. The church was very generous to the volunteers.” Said Terina, who worked the night shift at the shelter that she was assigned to.
The first shelter that Terina worked at was St. Josephs College in Phatchogue, NY. The shelter was set up in the gym and they had their clinic available for those in the shelter in the corner of the gym.
Terina explained that the most wide spread problem in the shelter was gastro enteritis, which is more commonly known as the Norwalk Virus. It’s contracted when people are contained in the same place for prolonged periods of time, such as those in the shelters.
Rooms were designated to quarantine those who came down with the virus, and many were transported to hospitals by ambulances that are required to be on station at the shelters.
Terina, herself, had the opportunity to spend some time in quarantine when she became sick and missed a day of work. She explained that even though she tested negative for Norwalk, health professionals took whatever precautions they could to keep the virus from spreading.
Terina worked at this shelter for two nights and then it was shut down and consolidated with other shelters who's numbers had depleted due to families finding other housing or being able to go back home. She was then moved to Nassau Community College, which was the largest shelter on Long Island. There were 700 people in the shelter when Terina arrived and 350 when she left to come home.
Terina compared the Nassau Community College to being slightly smaller than UNK. Victims in the shelter were housed on two levels - the main level being for those that needed more assistance and the lower level reserved for families.
During the day families would go to their houses and meet with inspectors who were tasked with making sure that homes were safe to have electricity restored to.
Many children went to school just like they normally would but instead of going home, they would return to the shelter at the end of their day.
“Life is hard in a shelter, you try to start every day with a smile,” said Terina
Terina would greet the people in the shelter in the morning and pointed out that one of the best parts of volunteering was that she got to know the people and hear their stories.
She recalled treating a young man of 15-years-old for a shoulder injury. He sustained the injury while he was rescuing his family out of a basement that was rapidly filling up with water. As he was pulling them through the window, a dresser floated by in the water and hit him, causing the injury.
Victims of the storm came from all walks of life, from doctors and lawyers who were successful in their careers, to the homeless. Terina remembered a doctor who came to the shelter holding a small box and just the clothes on her back.
“A storm doesn’t care where you are at on the economic scale, it’s not picky,” she noted.
Terina explained that right now, meals are the largest need that the Red Cross is facing, due to feeding thousands of victims that are without homes or are unable to cook meals for themselves.
Terina pointed out that the Red Cross was ready for the storm before it ever actually made landfall. Big containers full of medical supplies and food were staged at locations that were designated to be shelters.
“They knew it was coming and a plan was in place.”said Terina.
When asked how she became involved in the American Red Cross, Terina explained that she wanted to help after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf of Mexico in 2005. However, she learned that if she wanted to be in the trenches that she needed to join an organization so she chose the Red Cross. She had taken some classes but feels that it was well worth the time.
“There are so many facets to the Red Cross,” said Terina, “There are attendants, health care, outreach, mental health, and people needed just to serve food.”
She pointed out that it is just a matter of getting in touch with the local Red Cross Chapter.
“There were people who were in the shelters that decided if they were there they might as well help and joined the Red Cross right there,” Terina recalled.
Terina wished to express her gratitude to her family, friends and co-workers.
“They were all very supportive and told me to go.”She said,”It’s not just me going, but friends and family stepped up and covered for me while I was gone.”
Terina explained that the experience of being able to help people was amazing, and that she would not hesitate to do it again.