Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Local News

November 15, 2012

Helping out on Long Island

Lockport grad goes with UB to help Sandy's victims

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Michelle Secrist, who hurriedly became part of a Community Emergency Response Team in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, asked a Long Island couple where they were from.

“Nowhere,” they responded. “It’s gone.”

What the couple once had was spread by wind and rain over a lawn, somewhere in Yaphank, a hamlet towards the eastern end of Long Island. Their home was destroyed.

Secrist, a 2008 graduate of Lockport High School, earned a bachelor’s degree in Health and Human Services from the University at Buffalo this year. She is now in an accelerated nursing program at UB.

On Halloween night, Joann M. Sands, a clinical instructor at UB, was activated by New York’s Emergency Response Team to assist with health care relief for New York City area residents. Sands put out a call for volunteers from UB’s senior resident students.

Secrist did not read Sands’ email until 1 p.m. and had one hour to prepare and catch a ride with six other students. The eight women took two cars to Albany, where the team met up with other volunteers. Three of the UB students were from Long Island, the Suffolk County area, and the other four were from Western New York.

“Everybody was upbeat and exicted and happy to help,” said Sands, who is from Orchard Park.

The UB team arrived on Long Island at 12:30 a.m. and debriefed as what to expect. Then they went to work.

They were put up in heated military tents and took 12-hour shifts, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. They set up a hospital unit in the dining room of the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility in Yaphank. There were 20 temporary cots on the first floor and 20 on the second floor.

The first night, a few people showed up for shelter. Before long, the beds filled up. 

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