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Sandy Victims Settle into New Home

Carmen Torres and Thomas Karr
You could taste the salt water, and you knew the ocean was inside the house. I’ve never been so afraid.

With help from the American Red Cross, two Hurricane Sandy victims have found a new home and a new hope for the future.

When Hurricane Sandy slammed New York in late October, Carmen Torres and her boyfriend, Thomas Karr, felt like they were in a horror movie. Water rushed under the door and through the windows of their Island Park apartment in Long Island. Within minutes, it was up to their chests.

“You could taste the salt water, and you knew the ocean was inside the house. I’ve never been so afraid,” Torres said.

While many of their neighbors evacuated, Torres and Karr were determined to stay with their beloved cat and dog, bracing for the worst. To escape the rising waters, they climbed out of their apartment through a window. And that’s when their circumstances got even more severe—the force of the water slammed Torres against the house, knocking out her front teeth.

In the aftermath, the Federal Emergency Management Agency put Torres up in a hotel. When that assistance ended, they directed her to the Red Cross, which gave her a debit card to get urgent medical care for her teeth and helped her secure an affordable apartment, providing the initial deposit and broker fee, as well as a few items of furniture.

“The landlord was concerned that we wouldn’t be able to pay the rent,” Torres said. “When we told him the Red Cross was helping us, he immediately gave us the apartment.” Torres and Karr moved into the new apartment in mid-March.

“It was mayhem,” Torres said, thinking back to the days after Sandy’s landfall. “It was like a lost world, the middle of devastation. But when people saw the Red Cross arrive, you could see a little hope in their eyes. Without the Red Cross, this entire community would have been lost,” she said.

The Red Cross set up emergency stations in Island Park and distributed clothing, hot food and coffee to thousands in need. “It’s a beautiful thing, what the Red Cross has been doing here,” said Karr.

Today, in a new home with her pets, Torres plans to volunteer for her local Red Cross chapter so she can support other people in need.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.