With so many people doing so much good in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, there was no way the Herald could single out just one Person of the Year. So we didn’t.
When things could have turned ugly in storm-ravaged Oceanside and Island Park, residents helped one another and kept the communities together. People lent a hand to their flooded-out neighbors, donated food or clothes, invited friends to stay with them. Businesses hosted fundraisers, and restaurants cooked for blacked-out neighborhoods. Community organizations reached out to those in need.
The Herald is proud to name all of those volunteers — everyone who helped someone after the storm — our 2012 People of the Year.
First and foremost among them were the members of the Oceanside and Island Park fire departments. These men and women are heroes every day of the week, but during and after Sandy, they went above and beyond the call of duty.
In Oceanside, both Hose Company No. 1 and South Side Hose Company 2 were flooded in the storm. But the members of both houses never stopped working. They were out in the height of the storm, trying to get through the floodwaters to respond to calls.
The Fire Department in Island Park was just as heroic. Sandy destroyed the first floor of the firehouse, a ladder truck and an ambulance. But the IPFD didn’t stop. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, firefighters went door to door in search-and-rescue mode, making sure residents were alive. Later, they took on part of LIPA’s job, inspecting homes’ electrical systems. Their work continued day and night for weeks after the storm.
Though many of their own homes were destroyed, IPFD members slept on cots in the cold firehouse, without a working bathroom.
“They did a tremendous job,” Island Park Mayor James Ruzicka said of Fire Chief Steve Ruscio and Assistant Chiefs Anthony D’Esposito and Mike Whalen. Singling out Ruscio, Ruzicka added, “He was there through this whole storm. He didn’t give up the ship, that’s for sure, while his own house was destroyed and his family was displaced. Trying not only to deal with his own house and concerns, he stayed with the village every day. He didn’t quit.”