Hurricane Sandy Stories Continue Long After the Storm

NY Daily News - November 29, 2012

by Denis Hamill

After writing about a dog that survived his owner; a fireman who saved his mother, son, and others; their lives go on evolving past Hurricane Sandy.

The Sandy stories never seem to end.

And even the ones that appear in print keep evolving as this tragic chapter in New York history continues to unfold.

I received numerous offers from readers who wanted to adopt the poor dog left behind when its owner, Ritchie Krins, was found dead two days after Sandy struck, floating in 5 feet of water in his basement apartment on Dare Court in Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn.

Turns out that the dog no one could tell me the name of was taken away by Animal Care and Control of New York. After many inquiries, Richard Gentles of that organization wrote me back to say: "The dog's name is Lucas. He is being placed with one of our New Hope partners today," meaning Lucas will be placed for adoption.

I also wrote a story of a dramatic rescue effort in the Rockaways where Fire Department Lt. Tommy Woods rescued his mother, Mary Woods, 82, by strapping her to a surfboard outside his home on 130th St. and steering her safely five blocks through the raging floodwaters to his brother Buddy's house. And then he returned with his son, Brendan, 14, in a kayak to see their house in flames, but still found the resolve to save a girl with multiple sclerosis and paddle her to his brother's house, where they joined 29 people, four dogs and a bird.

Woods credited fellow firefighters Steve McDade and Donald Olsen and another Bravest "named Joe" with rescuing people in the storm. Joe was Joe Adinolfi, who helped save nine people and the four dogs and the bird that also wound up in Buddy Woods' home the night Sandy savaged the Rockaways.

The one thing that Woods, and his wife, Michele, who has been battling breast cancer, were most perturbed about was that US Airways wouldn't refund tickets for a ski trip that they could not take because of their devastating Sandy losses.

After reading about their plight in this space, US Airways, to its credit, did return the airfare. Then JetBlue called Michele Woods to say people at the carrier were so touched by Tommy's story that they were offering a five-day getaway for the Woods family at any of the airline's destinations, whenever they wanted to go. Michele gratefully accepted the trip. Tommy Woods, in his understated style, sent the airline a thank-you note.

It's always the real heroes who refuse to accept the acclaim.

Speaking of heroes, after writing here about Pete Vadola, a truck driver from Midland Beach, Staten Island, who rescued 200 people trapped in flooded homes with a motor boat, I received a letter from Mary Beth Hayes of the Citizens Service Before Self Awards given out by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, which recognizes unsung citizen heroes.

"Our nominations process is currently open, and the story of Mr. Vadola going out of his way to save the lives of strangers is a perfect fit for the award. It would be an honor to recognize this hero. Would you, or someone within your department, consider nominating Mr. Vadola for the award?"

Consider it done: I hereby nominate Pete Vadola for the award.

Another hero, Sgt. Thomas Carchidi of the Sea Gate Police Department in Brooklyn, rescued a couple in danger of drowning in a car on Mermaid Ave. the night Sandy hit. He then rescued a 78-year-old woman local cops knew as "Mrs. Winkler" and her 90-year-old brother from an Atlantic Ave. house that had its entire back wall ripped off by the storm.

I received this letter from the Port Authority Police PBA: "Mrs. Hanna Winkler is the widow of Port Authority Police Officer Bertram Winkler who died in the line of duty in March 1972 while in service at the Port Authority Bus Terminal Police Command. About five days ago Mrs. Winkler contacted PAPD headquarters seeking any assistance available. PAPD Special Services Section was able to determine Mrs. Winkler and her brother were living with relatives in Queens. Also learned was that the clothes they were wearing during that harrowing and heroic rescue were the only possessions they had left.

"Special Services informed the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association (PBA) of the Winklers' dilemma. The PBA arranged to take Mrs. Winkler clothes shopping last Sunday, during which she bought her and her brother at least a week's worth of clothing each. After the shopping trip," Mrs. Winkler said to those with her she was stunned that after 40 years we still remembered. We told her the saying, 'Never Forget,' is something we take seriously."

As I said, the stories of the people of the storm continue in post-Sandy New York long after they appear in print.