Superstorm Sandy: Out of crisis, community

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Oct. 29 marks a year since Superstorm Sandy ravaged an entire region. It's a fitting moment to pause and reflect—on the thousands of Americans who continue to rebuild their lives and their neighborhoods along the Eastern Seaboard, on the vital role that public service plays in such moments of crisis, and on the generous outpouring of AFT support that traveled quickly and spontaneously across state lines in the darkest hours of the storm's aftermath.

Commemorating the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy.

Just hours after the devastation, the generosity, courage and dedication of members was on display. The storm and its aftermath showcased the essential services provided by educators, state workers, healthcare professionals and other public employees—professionals who mounted heroic efforts in the face of very difficult circumstances. When several state medical facilities had to be evacuated, nurses represented by the New York State Public Employees Federation were there, playing a central role in moving patients to safer facilities. And when state government offices in the New York City area and on Long Island were closed after the devastation, PEF members considered "essential personnel" answered the call and reported to work.

The courage and tenacity of these professionals set the tone that AFTers across the nation were quick to pick up on.

AFT members and staff took part in a Day of Action on Nov. 10, 2012, to help with relief efforts. From Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., AFTers traveled by bus to volunteer with members of New York City's United Federation of Teachers to distribute much-needed supplies, food and clothing to members in affected areas throughout parts of New York. Members from AFT Pennsylvania and the Baltimore Teachers Union were at UFT headquarters, where they stuffed 30,000 student backpacks with school supplies and other necessities. First Book also provided 30,000 books to be distributed to children affected by the storm. In addition to school supplies, the UFT collected coats, hats and gloves donated by AFT Pennsylvania members.

In such hard-hit communities as the Rockaways and Coney Island, volunteers from AFT Connecticut and AFT national headquarters were busy distributing items such as water, batteries and toiletries to neighborhoods, and the out-of-state volunteers also pitched in with beach, park and school cleanups.

These are just a few instances of public service in action, and the work continues into the future. Just weeks after the storm, the New York City Teachers' Retirement System pledged $1 billion to new investments in infrastructure projects, including improvements to transportation, power, water, communications and housing in New York City and throughout the tri-state area. [From staff reports.]

October 29, 2013