Hurricane Harvey: A Lesson From Your Aunt Sandy

Hell's Kitchen:  Either you love that name or you hate it.  I personally love it.  But the marketing experts have tried to change it to "Clinton" (sigh) which I don't think will stick.  I mean, it's where the famous superhero Dare Devil is from! It's also the neighborhood I was living in back when Hurricane Sandy hit New York City.


Hurricane Harvey: A Lesson From Your Aunt Sandy

(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)

 It's incredible to think how long ago that was, but the city still hasn't fully recovered.  While Hell's Kitchen didn't see the brunt of the storm, my hometown borough of Staten Island sure did.  Shortly after the storm, I organized a group of friends to go out to the hard hit area to help pick up the pieces.  Even if a home was still standing, sadly many of them were condemned due to flooding of raw sewage.

While we were cleaning up the aforementioned raw sewage from a woman’s home, we found out she was sleeping in her yard and all of her belongings were gone. She needed to talk about her house, her memories, and keep some semblance of normalcy. We talked while cleaning and shoveling. As she was going through whatever was left of her belongings, the weight of her loss began to set in and she started to cry. It was there as she wept in my arms I knew that was the reason I was there.  


This picture on the left is of one of the clean up groups I organized and a man from the neighborhood that needed our help. The "mud" you see on the ground there was mostly sewage.  

Many people there lost their homes during this storm or shortly after. In spite of all this, spirits were high because of the support they felt from all the volunteers that rallied around. 

That's me on the bottom right!!

(Photo by John Negron)

The subways were shut down, and the buses were barely running. It was hard to get to, but those people needed immediate help.  I was there before the FEMA tents were up, and before the Red Cross trucks rolled in, but just in time nevertheless.


"I was there before the FEMA tents were up, and before the Red Cross trucks rolled in, but just in time nevertheless."

(Photo by John Negron)

Hurricane Harvey seems much worse than Sandy.  The devastation is wider, and there are more people in need.  Before any large organization can mobilize its official response, it's going to be the neighbors and local organizations that will be in the trenches.  When I got to ground zero of the devastation in Staten Island a day after Sandy hit, the only other people there helping were folks from the surrounding neighborhoods and churches.  

 (Photo by John Negron)

(Photo by John Negron)

Zachary Dearing, a local Rockport, Texas resident is a prime example of someone that made a decision to do something and help.  He was organizing the storm shelter even before city officials could be there.  Thanks to him and others like him, lives were saved.  I'm sure this is one of the many untold stories to come.

While the big NGOs might have finally mobilized, Rockport and other parts of Texas are going to need help into the foreseeable future.  The road to recovery isn't going to be overnight.  The storm will pass, the media coverage will soon fade, and the victims it left behind will have the arduous task of rebuilding their communities one brick and a time.   

I believe that we don't have to wait for the next mega storm to hit to make a difference. If you want to find easy ways to get involved, you can get plugged in right now. Register at BeADoer.IO to be part of the 1st responder community.  There, you can find out more about this and other causes by reading about the hurricane and other current events.  

My experience through the storm taught me that WE are the first responders if we choose to be. Just like Dr. Stephen Kimmel, the people around you could be the ones that save your life in an emergency. If you've read this far, I would bet that you're the kind of person isn't going to wait for "someone else" to do it. Are you going to be ready in season and out of season?


John Negron

John is the CEO and founder of an online platform to discover and support charitable causes.

After being an engineer at NASA, a startup developer, and worldwide missionary, he realized life is about helping others the best way he could. So he started a technology company to enable people to maximize their social impact. 

When he's not working you can find him working out, traveling, or salsa dancing...possibly all 3 at the same time.