Alternative Spring Break: Day 3 – Tameka

My task for today was the one that everyone dreaded. It was slow paced, monotonous and extremely loud. Yup, it was vacuuming. However, as much as we dreaded how tortoise-like vacuuming was compared to our loud, banging demolition of day 2, I knew that vacuuming was almost, if not, the most important of our journey. Vacuuming did the duty of removing the unsightly and health risking mold from inside these people’s houses. It was tedious; we vacuumed high and low, at one point, even climbing up ladders and entering under the floorboards to remove mold in places that one couldn’t see. Afterwards, we did our best to sweep up the dust and small pieces of wall and insulation on the floors that potentially held spores of mold. Our goal: To remove as much mold as we could because, at this point, it was the biggest risk to health and stability in the houses affected by Super storm Sandy.

The house I worked in on day 3, a single floor house with a basement that we were still (at the same time as we were vacuuming) pumping water out of. The house was met with a 14-foot storm surge the day of the hurricane, a wall of water that affected the house and it’s owner way worse than the houses of the neighbors, which stood tall at about 35-40 feet high. The owner, living next door in one of the houses less affect by the storm (the garage of this house was flooded but because of it’s concrete floors and walls did not need much attention) was polite and happy to serve us while we worked on our house. It was insightful to see that someone so devastated by the storm could be so optimistic about it’s outcome.

Day 2 may have been releasing (ripping and tearing down walls was surprisingly therapeutic) in regards to physical labor but day 3 was gratifying in more ways than one. These houses, affected substantially by Sandy, are more damaged than many of us could fathom. Not only so, the advancement that most of us expected in the four months since the storm has not occurred. Many are still removing water from within their homes – water that has been there for months. There is a sad lack of support for Staten Island; a lack of support that has contributed to Staten Island being considered “The Invisible Borough.” No one should be forgotten or overlooked in this way and I wish I had the answers but I don’t. All I really could do, which I will continue to do after seeing the issues I’ve seen, is lend a hand where it is needed and be the change I am not seeing in Staten Island.

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