Written by Ronald Scaglia Tuesday, 20 November 2012 12:25
They rode into town in electrical repair trucks, but to the many who were desperate to have their power restored, they were knights in shining armor who rode in on white horses. They were the out-of-state utility workers, who came to the area to help LIPA repair the damage that was caused by Hurricane Sandy. While most Long Islanders were living in the misery of powerless homes without heat, the workers who came to help were not living in the most luxurious of accommodations. Most of them left their wives and children behind to come to the Island to help out. Although cots were set up at LIU Post and other facilities, many of the workers slept in their trucks.
Their sacrifice has not gone unnoticed. Mike Magee, a lieutenant with the Hicksville Fire Department, came across workers from J.F. Electric, a company from southern Illinois, near St. Louis, that according to its website, “provides electrical design and construction services to utility, commercial, industrial and communications customers.” As the workers fixed a pole, Magee asked them if they needed a shower or a meal and they responded that they were sleeping in their trucks.
“We’ve got 20 cots here, you don’t have to sleep in trucks,” Magee told them. The workers then stayed in the Hicksville Fire Department Station 4, and Magee says that a bond has been formed.
“It’s like long lost brothers,” remarked Magee about the workers. “If there was anyone we offered a place to stay, I’m glad it’s these guys.”
The crew from J.F. Electric helped to repair the damage and restore power to Hicksville, Westbury, and surrounding areas. Legislator Rose Marie Walker presented them with a citation in recognition of their work. In addition, Walker, along with area residents Eileen and Tim Glover, Michael Whit, and Bob Gerard helped to prepare a home-cooked dinner for the linemen to enjoy. Fried chicken, corn bread, mashed potatoes, and cake were served to the men who brought the light back to the area.
“We wanted to do something just to say a big thank you to everyone from J.F. Electric,” said Walker. “We thought some were staying at our local firehouse so we thought we could prepare dinner. They were so kind in working so hard in our communities to get us back power.”
While the community was appreciative of their work, the personnel from J.F. Electric also appreciated the kindness showed by the community. They said that the community members went out of their way to show their gratitude.
“We’ve been treated fantastic on Long Island,” commented Jade Rash, who is away from his wife Jennifer, a 6-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter while he works on the island. “People brought us boxes of doughnuts and coffee. Everybody has been real happy to see us.”
“People here are so friendly,” remarked Victor Munoz, who has a wife named Emily and two sons in Illinois, “It was refreshing to see the kids playing outside.”
It can be difficult for the workers to be away from home and their families for such a long period of time. Some of the crewmembers arrived in Rhode Island on Oct. 26, helped to restore power there, and then came to Long Island without having been home. However, most accept it as part of the job.
“Everyone knows when they call, we go,” said Tim Huebner, who in addition to Long Island has worked to repair damage caused by other major storms including Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Back in Illinois, he has a wife, Darlene, and a son and a daughter.
“We’re all proud members,” added Brandon Gravot who is away from his wife Cheri and their two children. “We didn’t have to come but it’s kind of our job. You just get the call and you go. It’s kind of instilled.”
Kevin Neff, who has a wife named Veronica and five children at home said, “It feels good to help people.”
As they enjoyed their dinner, the linesmen commented that the job was difficult because of all the trees in the area. They said that unlike other areas, on Long Island they had to go into backyards, work through the many tree limbs, and sometimes hand dig holes six-feet deep to install new poles. They added that it was worth it when they received thanks from residents, who were sometimes in tears at lacking power and then in tears of joy when they received it back.