Massachusetts State Police Lend Helping Hand in Ortley in Sandy Aftermath
On Saturday, November 3rd, Lieutenant Michael Habel of the Massachusetts State Police, along with his contingent of 25 fellow officers, received word that they would head to the hurricane-ravaged areas of New Jersey Shore the following Saturday. Through the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), calls for help after disasters such as Hurricane Sandy are routed to all state police departments throughout the country, with a standard request to send 25 officers to assist during the time of need. “Although we had been on stand-by before during Hurricane Katrina and the Alabama tornadoes, this was the first time we were actually deployed to help,” shares Lieutenant Habel.
By OEM order, Lieutenant Habel and the Massachusetts State Police were split up into three groups upon arriving in New Jersey on November 10th, heading off to areas needing assistance, such as Brick, Monmouth County, and Hazlet. On Tuesday, November 13th, the 25 officers reunited and were dispatched by the OEM to Ortley Beach to serve under the command of Chief Michael Mastronardy and the Toms River Police Department. “When we arrived, the area’s people were calm because time had passed since the hurricane,” recalls Lieutenant Habel. “They were resigned to the fact that they had lost everything, and they were strong and ready to move ahead.”
Although Lieutenant Habel and the same contingent of officers had helped in Springfield Massachusetts, the second largest city in the state, after its 2011 tornado, he was shocked by the devastation Hurricane Sandy left behind. “After the tornado, there was water and wind damage, but this was much more widespread, affecting so many people. I was amazed at the number of refrigerators tipped over and displaced by the hurricane’s flooding. I had no idea they would float because they are so large. We found ourselves helping in any way we could, just doing what people needed. We moved so many refrigerators, we felt like appliance delivery guys,” remembers Lieutenant Habel.
In addition to uprighting refrigerators, Lieutenant Habel and the other officers from Massachusetts assisted with moving furniture, carting personal belongings, and getting residents back into their homes during phase one of Toms River’s three-phase re-entry plan. Their main focus was security and patrolling to prevent looting, which they did not encounter at all. The Massachusetts officers also helped the Toms River Police Department with checking identifications for re-entry onto the Barrier Island. “The people in Ortley Beach and the whole area were super appreciative and friendly, even though many of them had just lost everything. It was difficult being away from home and our families, but I felt lucky we had homes to return to after seeing this. The whole experience was very rewarding,” shares Lieutenant Habel, who was very impressed by the dedication of the Toms River Police Department. “Officers who had lost their own homes were out there helping others, working 24/7 to help their community. If we got called back tomorrow to help, we would definitely head back and do it all over again.” The Toms River Police Department and community extend thanks to the Massachusetts State Police for their assistance and support.
-Article written by Christa Riddle, owner of All About Writing, www.allaboutwritingconsulting.com