Sandy Aftermath: Unsung Heroes of the Cleanup Effort

Posted on: November 7th, 2012 at 10:20 am by

[Anthony (L) and John (R); Photo by Evan Silver

The destruction and loss are palpable from blocks away. Right off Midland Avenue in Staten Island, storm-battered houses are being gutted. Large mountains of trash in the streets are being stacked and sandwiched between pieces of people’s lives. Memories and personal keepsakes strewn about in every direction. A photo of a smiling baby floats in a puddle of mud next to somebody’s cracked 47″ flatscreen. Reaching over eight feet high in some piles, it’s a powerful reminder of the widespread devastation that has taken place in this quiet Staten Island town filled with families that have lived here for generations.

[Photo: Evan Silver]

Two young men, John Maiorana and Anthony Cicramella, pick up pieces of broken windows, sea-soaked furniture, discarded children’s clothes and toys and toss it all into their massive sanitation truck. These two unsung heroes are part of the many Sanitation crews who’ve come from all over the city to help with the seemingly impossible task of cleaning up these once quiet blocks.

A seven-foot long burgundy sofa destroyed in the storm, now water logged and weighing twice as much, is hoisted into the jaws of the truck by these two men. A massive wood dresser is crushed in seconds as the men try to catch a few breaths before attacking the next piece.

But these men, and the dozens of other hard working crews dotting these Staten Island blocks, don’t seem to complain. They have been at it since 6am this morning and will continue with the back-breaking work with no days off in sight. They have their own family and friends, and even flooded homes to worry about, but that doesn’t seem to stop them from helping out this wounded community and others like it around our city.

Families whose own homes were destroyed in the storm put on gloves and join John and Anthony as they approach a monstrous pile of twisted metal and large furniture pieces. After a half hour the pile is gone. Then it’s on to the next mound only a few yards away. House after house John and Anthony continue to lift, toss and shove pieces of discarded objects into their truck that only a week ago were apart of these families homes.

As the end of the day approaches and the temperatures drop into freezing conditions, the piles of wreckage seem to slowly disappear and the block begins to open up. Perhaps allowing this Staten Island community a small sense of normalcy and a visual sign that some of the recovery and healing has begun. But there’s still a very long way to go and a lot more people to help in this neighborhood. So it’s on to the next home, John and Anthony silently do their part in this slow, painful recovery along with the townspeople by their side.

-Written by Evan Silver

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  • Matt

    I saw these guys and other Sanitation crews at Midland. All of them worked tirelessly. And they were so respectful. They showed courtesy and compassion to everyone they were helping. Good on you New York’s Strongest.

  • Robin

    These men and woman need more recognition. I see them out there everyday working their butts off and never get thanked. It’s a tough job and glad to have them here.