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Acts of Courage during Hurricane Sandy

Written By: Bill Finnigan  |  Posted: Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

            The presidential election is over, but the tragic saga of Sandy is still in play. The Northeast coastline was devastated with an unbelievable "super storm" that stretched over 800 miles. Particularly hard hit were places like Atlantic City, near my home, and various boroughs in NY, like Queens and Staten Island. Close to 100 people have died, and thousands more are homeless. Between the flood and fire damage, the area looks like a virtual war zone. The cleanup operation continues under insurmountable odds, and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight.

            As seen in other times of natural disaster, we witness the worst and the best in people. Looting, price-gouging, anger, greed, etc. have been apparent, but heroic and selfless deeds have also been evidenced. In his AP article, "Tragedies can't break heroic spirit," Larry Neumeister relates some acts of heroism in one Queens community. Residents rallied at the storms peak, using surfboards and kayaks to rescue themselves as fire engulfed 14 homes and torched the evening sky. "We heard screaming and crying in the dark," 55-year old Thomas Buell recalled as he waded through 4-foot-high flood waters in Belle Harbor to reach higher ground. "It was a nightmare."

            The residents of this area know disaster, living in a beach community which is home to many emergency responders. The events of the 9/11 attack hit hard, followed by a plane crash in the area that took 265 lives; and now Sandy. Acts of courage were abundant, like Tommy Woods who placed his 82-year-old mother on a surf board in chilly waters and ferried her several blocks to safety. Afterward Tommy returned where homes were ablaze to help a neighbor's mother escape. Placing her in a kayak, he walked her to shelter. Others risked their lives in burning buildings by going door to door to get everyone out.

            Not far down the street, unaware of Wood's rescue, Tom Buell and his neighbor Troy Bradwisch linked up with three other men wearing waist-high fisherman's waders to ferry people through the stiff current toward the Belle Harbor Yacht Club. Many others, including an 86-year-old man, formed a human chain and waded through the water latching on to their neighbors, making sure no one was lost.

            Buell later commented, "There was a lot of current, but people were close together, holding on to each other." What an example of the power of unity, when folks boldly lock arms together in a crisis; not only for their own safety, but for the rescue and welfare of others! There's no question that profound expressions of thanksgiving for God's intervention filled the night air. Now help is coming from all over the country, including a helping hand from past victims of hurricane Katrina.

            I think Solomon of old had some insight when he said, "Two are better than one…for if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up." (The Bible)

                Bill Finnigan is a retired pastor.  He lives in Warren, Ohio.

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