At the park around the corner from Walker’s gutted home, smoke billows through the chilly afternoon air. There are high-pitched squeals. Shouting.
The scene is not one of disaster, however, but rather recovery, life.
There are congregants from a local church. There are members of volunteer fire departments, the Bethpage Water District. There are people from all ages and stages of life. And they have come here to pitch in.
Ray “The Plumber,” who runs an East Islip business of the same name but who refused to be interviewed for this story because he wasn’t interested in the publicity, delivered 1,000 hotdogs and 1,000 hamburgers, among other foodstuffs via his fleet of trucks, and for the first time in awhile for many, these residents are eating hot food.
An army of volunteers work the grill, tell stories and do what they can to conjure a smile.
Island Harvest parks its truck in front of the park and delivers free meals. There’s a pile of boxes filled with non-perishables. Entenmann’s Bakery has stocked a table off the sidewalk with unopened, freshly baked goods. There’s a pile of clothing that other Long Islanders have donated.
Down the block, away from the hubbub, Dyana and Tom Grix of North Babylon walk door-to-door handing out McDonald’s hamburgers and water. The day before, they drove around with their 8-year-old son Kevin and a 60-cup urn’s worth of steaming coffee, delivering hot java to lips thirsty for warmth.
After several prods from a Press reporter for an answer as to why they’ve been out there, walking up to strangers, spending their own gas and money during a time when both are so scarce, the couple finally relented.
“Seeing the news and seeing local families close to us have nothing,” said Tom, 40. “Pictures on the news don’t really tell you the story. You don’t get the feeling that you get when you’re down there.”
“There aren’t any words to describe it,” says Dyana, 39.
“We made friends down there, so out of all this misery, some good came out of it,” Tom adds.
New friends, such as Lance Walker.
“We got good people, like these people bringing us coffee in the morning, which is really great, cause it’s cold in there,” he smiles. “And now you’ve got all these people handing out food, dry clothes.
“The first day, it seemed like it was never going to end,” he continues. “And now, everyday it does seem like there is an end to it.
“[But] I don’t know where it is.”
The Press News Staff consists of: Lindsay Christ, Timothy Bolger,
Jaclyn Gallucci, Rashed Mian, Spencer Rumsey and Christopher Twarowski