Superstorm Sandy tore many lives to pieces, but donations to the American Red Cross are giving people, like the Carrillo family, the assistance they need to recover.
“The Red Cross helped me put my life back together,” Francisco Carrillo said.
Carrillo, 60, and his wife, Armead, 57, heeded evacuation orders and left their basement home in Far Rockaway prior to Sandy making landfall. Due to road closures caused by Sandy, they weren’t able to return until several days later. When he finally did arrive home Carrillo wasn’t prepared for what he saw, smelled or felt.
“It was devastating,” he said.
Carrillo described a nauseating stench from the water and sludge that had taken over his home in the days he and his wife were away. He said the debris line the water made on the walls inside his home is just part of the evidence that more than four feet of water had been inside.
“The refrigerator was on its side; the stove had halfway fallen,” Carrillo said. “I couldn’t get in the bedroom because the bed was blocking the door.”
Photos taken by Carrillo show a black, toxic sludge covering almost everything in sight. The family’s furniture had all been submerged in the dirty water.
“My mom passed away about four years ago so I had a lot of her furniture. It was sentimental to me,” Carrillo said. “I lost pictures of her, pictures of me when I was young.”
In his photos, all of that furniture, his belongings, and memories are shown stacked at the curb waiting for trash pickup.
With thousands of dollars in damage, Carrillo faced an enormous challenge trying to rebuild. He is unemployed, having been laid off several years ago from a company where he’d worked for 36 years. His wife works as a bookkeeper for a non-profit organization. The family’s homeowner’s insurance policy would not cover the damage, and they had no flood insurance.
Carrillo began working with FEMA and called the Red Cross. His was assigned to Red Cross Case Manager Ashley Hilton.
“I was so grateful,” he said. “She was always giving me information, walking me through the process. She was right there for me.”
Carrillo qualified for the Red Cross Move-In Assistance Program and received $9,500 to pay a contractor who made extensive repairs to his home including new sheetrock, painting and light fixtures.
“Relief? Yeah, to the utmost,” Carrillo said. “It’s almost like a chapter in my life closed once I got the assistance from the Red Cross. “I know that the worst is behind me and I can take a breath.”
He and his wife moved back into their home in June. He expressed his thanks to Red Cross donors for the help his family received.
“People that donate to the Red Cross have good hearts because they know they’re doing it for a good cause,” Carrillo said. “It’s not an investment for money; it’s an investment for humanity to help people in dire straits.”