YONKERS, N.Y. – A group of Yonkers students gave up a day off for a chance to help some of Hurricane Sandy’s most devastated victims.
Eight city residents were part of a group of students from the Loyola School in Manhattan who spent a recent Sunday in the Breezy Point section of Queens, passing out water and cleaning up homes ravaged by the storm.
Junior Michael Donnelly said he was taken aback by the damage to the area. Complete neighborhoods were burned to the ground, with only the chimney stacks remaining. Houses were flipped over, and the area still smelled of smoke, he said.
“When you see it on TV, you’re expecting it to be pretty bad,” the 16-year-old said. But it’s a lot worse when you see it in real life. It’s hard to believe something like that is right on your back doorstep.”
Breezy Point was one of the areas most devastated by Hurricane Sandy. More than 80 homes were destroyed during a six-alarm fire that was sparked during the peak of the storm, and many more flooded in the surge.
On Sunday, Nov. 11, Donnelly was part of a group of 48 Loyola students who spent more than six hours passing out food and water, removing furniture, and gutting houses destroyed in the storm.
“You put a smile on your face and you try to make a difference,” Donnelly said. “You try to put a small dent in all the work that needs to be done.”
While Yonkers was spared from the worst of the storm, for many students in the Loyola School , a Jesuit school on Manhattan's Upper East Side, the mission trip hit close to home.
Donnelly said several of his classmates either lived in the area or had relatives who did. Several Loyola faculty members and alumni called the Breezy Point area home as well.
And many there are desperate for help. Donnelly said the students were given a round of applause from residents grateful for their efforts.
“The people there really appreciate the work, and they’re working side by side with you,” he said. “To see a group of teens come down, I think that was a spark for them.”
The trip made such an impact on the students, many are already making plans to head back.
“They still need help, and it’s something you really can’t have an understanding of until you’re there to experience it,” Donnelly said.