I remember a time coined "The Me Generation" and the mentality of "It's All About Me" where it seemed we-some of us-as humans seemed to have lost our way becoming self-centered and selfish. I am not making a blanket statement of all people. It just seems there was a lot of that attitude around. And then there was a shift. As horrific as the events of 9/11 were, people came together as never before. Since then we have had an unprecedented increase in natural disasters. All of our varied sources of media have brought about an awareness of occurrences. And need. People are caring about their "neighbors", whether next door, a different state, or across the globe.
On Sunday, Oct.28, First Selectman Willie Fritz called together the core group of us volunteering for Superstorm Sandy disaster services for a briefing of the itinerary. We opened the shelter at town hall the following morning 9am. A few hours later it was decided that the shelter would be moved to the Eliot school. So we packed up the food, cots, supplies and bussed evacuees and headed to Eliot with help from the fire dept. What began as a core group quickly grew to many, many volunteers. People were coming in "What can I do to help?"
Mid-day Red Cross leader John Hussaini, owner of Clinton Subway took then Selectman, now State Rep Tom Vicino, Leah Saunders and myself to Subway to make free sandwiches for everyone at the shelter. John consistently shows a very generous nature and is very involved in the community. Back at the shelter Assistant Assessor Andrea Woliver, Social Services Coordinator Cheryl Church and Patricia Collins were very busy with the Red Cross intake as residents streamed in. As the day progressed it had been decided that Peregrine's Landing residents would be evacuated to the shelter. They set up camp in the gym, separate from the rest of us in the cafeteria. They arrived fully prepared with their staff, food, and supplies needing only our cots. The staff were amazing, very organized, professional and competent.
Through-out the days and nights First Selectman Willie Fritz was checking the shelter, keeping everyone informed and out on the streets doing what ever was needed. I wondered "Did he ever get any sleep?" Superintendent Jack Cross was there frequently overseeing operations. Food Services Director Jon Siciliano and his staff prepared hundreds of delicious meals and Director of Maintenance Mike Koziy and his staff kept everything running smoothly, clean and provided hot showers. I really cannot say enough good things about the employees and volunteers at Eliot. They maintained the kitchen and building non-stop. As the week progressed and most of the residents went back to their homes the shelter was moved back to the town hall culminating in just shy of a weeks time.
Many, many thanks to Jack Cross, Jon Siciliano, head cook Violet Barnes and her husband Jake Barnes, cafeteria staff Carol Cullen, Mike Koziy and custodians Mike Simeone, Larry Marzano, Daniel Maher, Maurice Kennedy, Joseph Buffington, and Sarah Merrill and maintenance staff Ross Parker, Dave Capece and Tom Vincelette. Thanks to Allison Friday who was instrumental in getting me everyone's names.
Many thanks to our police, fire dept and ambulance personnel who as always keeps us all safe, always doing an amazing job with such dedication. Thanks to town hall custodian John O'Connell, Sandra Fritz and her boys and Lynn Pinder for all your help. I tried to be thorough so as not to miss anyone but I probably inadvertently did, so to those a big thank you also.
Special thanks to our core volunteer team who manned the shelter day and night- Willie Fritz, John Hussaini, Tom Vicino, Patricia Collins (was she ever NOT there?) Cheryl Church, Leah Saunders and Andrea Woliver who kept us all laughing.
And thank you to all the Mothers and Fathers who taught their children the importance of helping others, the spirit of community and what can be done if we all work together. What an inspiring role model and example you are.
So it seems the "All About Me" attitude has largely come to pass for those who once held that thought process. Someone once said to me "You're such a bleeding heart." They meant it as a criticism, I took it as a compliment. I am quite okay with being a bleeding heart. I am in good company.