Category: Work

Goodbye Graysville

Posted by – June 26, 2014

Well, after seven weeks working tornado response in the City of Graysville we are finally saying “Goodbye” and moving on.  There’s been a lot of progress made here since the April 28th tornadoes and soon you will be better than new.

I’ve worked with a great team here and the residents have been so friendly.  The only way I could have felt any more at home is if I had bought a house.  But that’s nothing new for the good people of Alabama.  I was here three years ago after the 2011 tornado super-outbreak (also in late April) and was treated very well then also. 

The folks here love to make and share cakes and other goodies.  I’m not much of a sweet eater but I’ve had plenty this visit.  In my defense, it’s considered offensive to refuse the love (goodies) someone prepares for you and I don’t want to offend anyone.  On the contrary, I have accepted any and all love.  And I have the added 10 pounds on me to prove it!

So Graysville, I just wanted to say thank you for your kindness, your support, and your southern hospitality.  It’s truly been a pleasure serving the people of Alabama again and I wish you all the best.

Return to the Big Apple

Posted by – February 2, 2013

Birthdays are always a reminder that I am getter older and that another year of my life has passed me by. It is for that reason I don’t usually pay much attention to or care to celebrate my birthdays. A casual dinner with a family member or two and a few beers with friends and/or family suits me just fine.

This year however I looked forward to celebrating in a big way with whoever wanted to celebrate with me. I would make it a “Happy to be alive” birthday celebration. Instead, duty called and I ended up on a 6am flight back to New York that day. What is the saying? “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”? So true. And yes, initially I was unhappy that my Big Birthday plans had gone awry but this IS the job I signed up for. So I decided instead to think of it this way….

My employer gave me an all-expenses paid trip to the Big Apple for my birthday. And, while I’m here I get to help out the folks trying to recover from SuperStorm Sandy. Sweet!

SuperStorm Sandy

Posted by – November 21, 2012

On October 22nd, Tropical Storm Sandy formed in the Caribbean and meteorologists began warning that Sandy would combine with a strong nor’easter and produce a storm of the century.  The Weather Channel initially dubbed it “Frankenstorm” but it later became “SuperStorm” Sandy.  On the night of October 29th, it slammed into the northeast coast near Atlantic City, New Jersey leaving catastrophic damage in its wake.  As one survivor put it “Sandy kicked our asses”.

In the days leading up to the storm authorities warned millions to expect power outages at some point during Sandy and many would likely not have power restored for days, if not weeks.  High winds, heavy rains, storm surge, flash flooding, and heavy snow were expected with this monster that caused impact states from Florida to Maine to prepare for the worst.    Utility trucks were staged, evacuation orders were issued, power was shut off in anticipation of the surge, and the President issued emergency declarations to provide direct federal assistance to the states of CT, MA, MD, NJ, NY, PA, RI, DE, and the District of Columbia.

There was a lot of talk before this storm about media hype but everything happened exactly the way forecasters and authorities warned.  Sandy was a multiple day event and, in the aftermath, 8.2 million people were without power, thousands were in shelters, hundreds of homes were destroyed, thousands more damaged, and near 100 people lost their lives in the US  alone.  The road to recovery will be long but hopefully the folks here, with the thousands that came to help, will stay strong and come back better than before.


Posted by – October 23, 2011

Back in early September I flew to Connecticut to help folks who had been affected by Tropical Storm Irene.   Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Lee formed in the Gulf and was slowly making its way North.  Most folks seemed concerned about the impacts of Irene but didn’t seem to give a second thought to Lee’s impending presence.  But Lee proved to be as much, if not more, of a menace dumping heavy rainfall on the (already saturated) northeast and causing historic flooding.

I worked in Connecticut 3 weeks and two days before I was scheduled to leave; I got my first day off.  The locals had been giving me ideas about where I should go.  The two most suggested places were Mystic Seaport and the casinos.  So, in the days leading up to that day I mapped out my journey, printed some info, and charged up my camera.

That morning I woke up at 4am determined to be in Mystic for the sunrise.  Unfortunately, it was completely overcast and the sun did not make an appearance.  (Truth be told, I wouldn’t have made it anyway.)  Mystic is a nice coastal town in southeast Connecticut.  It’s home to Mystic Pizza, the place that inspired the movie of the same name, and sits on the Mystic River, not the one from the movie of the same name.  Mystic Seaport didn’t open til 9am so I walked around town for a few hours taking in the scenery and snapping some pictures.  Suddenly, I felt like I was in one of those old TV shows from back in the day.  Every person I passed greeted me with a smile and a “Good Morning”.  Even folks biking or driving by would wave and yell out a “Good Morning”.  Most times you don’t get so much as a grunt out of someone so this was completely foreign to me.

When the Seaport finally opened I spoke to the customer service lady.  She gave me pricing and information for what the Seaport had to offer and told me set aside two days to see and do everything.  Since my time was limited I opted to take the info and hope I can use it another time.  In case you’re wondering what there is to do at the Seaport…  tour old ships, take a boat ride up the Mystic River, rent boats, see exhibits, walk through the museum and a re-created 19th-century village, check out the last wooden whaling ship in the world (currently being restored at the Seaport), and browse the shops.

Next, I took a quick drive into Rhode Island for some lunch and then headed to Uncasville to the Mohegan Sun Casino.  The Foxwoods Resort and MGM Grand at Foxwoods are located a few miles away in Mashantucket.  (FYI, Connecticut has the 3 largest casinos in the world.)  I opted for the Mohegan at someone else’s suggestion.  The casino is impressive.  There were 3 separate casinos inside along with bars, restaurants, shops, and the Mohegan Sun Arena.  Beautiful place!   I spent most of my time checking out the architecture and the décor.  I threw a few bucks in the slots, played some blackjack, and then called it a day.

I took the long route back to my hotel so I could pass through a few other areas I wanted to see.  It was a relaxing, leisure drive and I did enjoy myself.  The following day I would be back to work to wrap things up.  Then a quick stop at home to check things out and on to Pennsylvania.

For more Mystic info check here.  My Mystic pics are here.

Rebuilding Bama

Posted by – June 3, 2011

It’s been a little more than a month since the tornadoes came through here and, although folks don’t seem to be looking for help anymore, there’s still a lot of work to be done.  Until folks get their property cleared off they won’t be able to rebuild so there are a lot of debris and log trucks on the road moving material from place to place.  The phone company field staff has nearly completed all they CAN do for now.  As one guy put it “unless we pull a Green Acres and put a phones on poles next to the concrete slabs there’s nothing else we can do until homes are built ”.

As the Volunteers dwindle the politics heats up.  That’s typical.  It happens all the time.  It’s a shame, though, that the news doesn’t continue to share the feel good stuff.  There are still neighbors and local groups helping folks out here and still groups coming from out of town to offer assistance.  (Wish they would help us get a cell phone signal.  I’m starting to think cell service was non-existent here BEFORE the tornadoes though.)

One of the locals came by wearing a “rebuild Alabama” t-shirt.  She said the Berry Elementary School had them printed up to raise money for their school and the school in Hackleburg.  We’re always looking for ways to help out the community/local economy and for souvenirs to take back home so we contacted the school.  By the time we were done there were no shirts left.  I think we made the school ladies very happy.

Also, the Birmingham News paper has been advertising this:  “The stories of tragedy, loss, courage and faith are captured through the words and photos of The Birmingham News, Mobile Press-Register and Huntsville Times in our book Day of Devastation.  This 128-page volume is now available for order.  A portion of the proceeds of this book will be contributed to the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund, created to help those affected by the storms.”  This is my next purchase.  You can find it online at The Birmingham Store or Books-a-Million.

Until next time…. back to work.

Battered Bama

Posted by – May 22, 2011

Greetings from Northwest Alabama!  It’s been a very looong 2 weeks but it seems like things are progressing.  Many folks around here are determined to do most of the work themselves as they want to be self sufficient, don’t want anyone in their business, and don’t trust the government.  For those that want help there are plenty of outside sources including:  local church groups, the Mennonites, the Church of Ladder Day Saints, Farm Services, the local Department of Human Resources, 211 (United Way), and the federal government.  My team has been working diligently to try and find those folks who need help and encourage them to accept or apply for help.  (By the way, the picture to the right was taken by a local when the tornado came through this area.)

Lots of tornado stories here, but none I wish to share.  Much too sad.  Well, maybe this one….  I spoke with a woman who stuck a football helmet on her son and rolled him up in the mattress.  Unfortunately, she was sucked out of the home and suffered some injuries but the boy was uninjured.  Happy ending.

I’ve been amazed at some of what I’ve seen.  I tried to take a picture of one sight (left) while driving past but didn’t get what I wanted to show.  (And now it’s nearly cleaned up.)  Anyway, there are several mobile homes here amongst many tall trees.  A bunch of trees were uprooted and are laying down around the mobile homes.  Other than some awning dents every one of those trees missed those homes.  And no tornado damage to those homes either.  What are the odds?

There are a lot of restaurants located in gas stations here.  According to a few of my co-workers the food is good but the thought scares me.  I frequent one particular place down the road we call “grandma’s place” (Eagle Rock Grill, Inc.).  Down home cookin!  Comes complete with artery hardening grease and pound packin calories.  I don’t even know how many pounds I’ve put on since I’ve been out here (not to mention the acne I’ve got going on) but it sure is good!

Sleep, eat, work…. rinse and repeat.  That’s about it.  Until next time!
(If you’d like to check out what few pics I’ve taken since I’ve been here, go to my online Alabama album.)

Nashville Update

Posted by – May 24, 2010

Well, there’s still a lot of work to be done here.  Mountains of trash, debris, and ruined household contents dot the landscape but folks are slowly making progress.  I haven’t had much of an opportunity to take pictures of the area here.  (The one to the right I “borrowed”.)  We’ve been pretty busy since our arrival 2 1/2 weeks ago and when the work day is done I have just enough time to eat a light dinner / snack, call home, and check email before I pass out for the night.

Last Friday I moved into new digs.  Nothing special but at least now I don’t have to stand in a foot of dirty water while I shower, there’s a laundry room downstairs, and I have highspeed internet available.  In addition, one of my co-workers (a barber for 32 years) is in the same place.  Yesterday, while I waited for the laundry room to be available, he came to my room and gave me a hair cut.  That’s room service!

I don’t think we’ll have an opportunity anytime soon to get out and play tourist but we’ve gotten quite a few suggestions from the locals on sites to see and great places to eat.  I’m hoping we can check some of those out before we leave the state.  For now the only places I’ve seen (other than work and my room) are the ones I visit for lunch.  Besides the usual fast food places, I’ve been to only two other establishments.  I frequent Rafferty’s Restaurant most.  The food there has been consistently good and the service is excellent.  They really make you feel like you’re the only one in the place.  Yesterday I checked out Jersey Mike’s Subs and ordered their “Famous Philly Cheesesteak”.  Now, I’m no Philly Cheesesteak expert but that was probably the best I’ve ever had.    I’m looking forward to trying out more places in the coming days.  I loves me some food!  

The people here have been extremely nice and neighborly and the communities (for the most part) have really stepped up to help folks out.  I say ‘for the most part’ because I spoke to a guy the other day who lost everything and went to a local church to ask if they could help him with food and clothing.  They told him NO because he wasn’t a member of their church.  NICE.  (Those of you who know me know that I am not a fan of churches.  This would be yet another reason why.)

There are lots of other individuals and community groups, though, doing some great things for these folks.  Some of them appreciated, some not.  Most people seem to be grateful for everything that everyone is trying to help with.  Others whine about not getting as much help from as many people as their neighbors, friends, or family members.  It’s an unappealing, childish sense of entitlement that irritates me.    I think any help (big or small) from any source should be appreciated but… that’s me.  Kudos to ALL of those who are helping. 

Now, back to work I go. 
(to be continued…)

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