"At Night, We Are So Cold"

by Laura Reinhardt

Torture. That's how 12-year-old Travis Marshall describes the bitter cold he and his mother face when they go to bed at night. Superstorm Sandy left them homeless when floodwaters rushed into their first floor apartment in Far Rockaway, Queens.

Travis Marshall, 12, with World Vision blankets

Travis eyes the stack of blankets—part of the relief supplies brought in by World Vision's disaster response team—that stands as high as he is tall. "I could sleep with all of them at once," he says.

Like a Tidal Wave

His mother, Sandra Pommell, 45, watched in horror as the water kept rising. There was no rain so she couldn't understand where the water was coming from. "I started to remember [what] they said back home (in Jamaica)," she says. "They said it was a tidal wave. ...It looks like the sea is taking its course."


Travis feared that both he and his mother would be drowned as the waters with alarming speed. They didn't have time to save anything. Luckily they sought shelter with a neighbor upstairs in the second floor. All night long they and their neighbors kept a vigil, watching the water to make sure it didn't come all the way to the second floor.

Everything is Gone

"We had to throw out everything," says Sandra of what happened when they returned to their apartment. "Every single thing." Except, that is, for a few pieces of clothing, which she is now laying out in the parking lot of the Upper Room International Ministries, where she and Travis are sheltering.

"You see I'm trying to dry some clothes, some sweaters to see if I can save them," she says. She needs these clothes so that she and Travis have more to layer up in when they go to bed at night. They have a place to stay, but a week after the storm, there's still no power, no heat. "At night we are so cold," she says.

With temperatures dipping into the forties, the sun doesn’t offer much warmth to dry out the clothes, but it's the best she can do.

She and Travis sleep on mattresses that were wet on the bottom by the flood. They've covered them in plastic to keep from getting wet themselves. In the morning, Sandra's hands are so cramped with cold she can’t even soap up her washcloth.

Travis suffers more in the cold too. He has asthma and Sandra has had to take him to the hospital twice in the past week because of attacks brought on by the winter temperatures.

Despite her own situation, Sandra feels for the other families who have lost everything. "It's terrible to see the children in this cold," she says. She sees families along the beach, the children walking and their noses running in the frigid air.

Meteorologists are predicting another winter storm in the area on Thursday, which means no relief for families already suffering.

Reaching Out to the Community

The church's pastor, Courtney Brown says, "I think that the tidal wave and the hurricane was one issue, but the lack of electricity created a domino effect that I don't think was properly planned or prepared for. Because no light means the food spoils on the fridge and it means the boilers don't work. No heat. And so that's created its own situation."

In times of disaster, World Vision relies on church and community partners to help identify the most vulnerable families. Pastor Brown's church is trying to help as many families in need in the community as they can. In support, World Vision brought in relief supplies for the church to distribute. The supplies include bottled water, Family Food Kits, packages of cookies donated by a New York bakery, and blankets.

Other Impacts of Superstorm Sandy

"Folks right now are in dire need of immediate day-to-day food. There's no way without refrigeration to preserve anything," says Pastor Brown.

Sandra has seen other families struggling to find food. "So [many] people are suffering a lot. They're cold. Some people it's meal by meal," she says. "So they got to go every day on the street to find food."

World Vision's Family Food Kits provide enough food to feed a family of five for a day. Everything is included and people only need to add hot water.

Pastor Brown worries about families who have lost their cars and with them a way to get to work. Others' workplaces were lost in flooding and so those families are without a source of income.