Written by: Pheel Wang
Translated by: H.B. Qin
Edited by: Adriana DiBenedetto
“I live in a basement on Peck Avenue. I lost everything; my bed was gone, all my clothes were soaked in water, including this bike, all soaked in water.” The powerful remnants of Hurricane Ida damaged or otherwise destroyed all of Hsing Fu Wang’s belongings. “When I went to clean up the next day,” he said, “I ran into a Tzu Chi volunteer, and she called the service center and gave me $300 in emergency relief. I was very touched, really. I had nothing at that time. I was eating a loaf of bread given to me by my neighbor. It was so tragic.”
Mr. Wang and many survivors like him had lost much that night. As they met with volunteers, they recalled their frightening experiences.
“My daughter sat on the bed and said in fear, ‘mom, we have no place to run. Are we going to die here?’” recounted one mother of a family of three who could only watch as the floodwater rose in their basement. “My husband was guarding the entrance where the water came in, using his body to block it. I’ve never been so desperate in my life.”
Other survivors who did escape onto the street found that the flood quickly reached one’s nose, and a woman had to drag another person with her to get somewhere safe.
Tzu Chi volunteers quickly mobilized after the disaster, taking turns assessing flooded areas in Queens, assisting with community clean-up efforts, and launching a hot food distribution.
Yang Lee was one of the volunteers on site. “The flood was at least this high,” he said, pointing to a stain on the first floor of a home. The water had risen higher than he was tall. With nowhere else to go, many survivors stayed in their waterlogged homes. “The houses are still wet, and you can smell the mold,” he said. “Their gas supply hasn’t been restored yet. Many of them can’t take a shower since the flooding. And they couldn’t cook; food is a big issue. Sometimes they receive donations of food. These are frozen foods. But they have no place to heat them.”
The volunteers’ hearts ached as they learned of the survivors’ experiences. Tzu Chi Northeast Region conducted the first flood relief distribution on September 8, serving 26 families. A second distribution on September 11 benefited 61 impacted families, and a third took place on the 18.
“Today, we are holding another distribution event because the affected areas are vast, and many people are affected. They are still in great need of help,” said Tzu Chi volunteer SanSan Chiang. She’d also mobilized alongside other volunteers the day after the disaster, delivering financial help and contributing to the clean-up efforts.
“They gave me a $1,000 cash card, which we will use to buy mattresses, bed frames, rice cookers, anything we need.” Feng Mei Hu’s home was flooded almost to the roof. The muddy marks held firmly to the wall as the sunlight dried them. Now, however, there were finally some funds available to help acquire the essentials. “We also got blankets and masks. The volunteers were really considerate; we actually got these!”
Another mom with a child wanted to use her cash card to rent a home and purchase a table and chairs. Mr. Wang came to the distribution site with the only bicycle at home that was soaked but not broken: “Today, the volunteers gave me another 300 dollars; I want to buy some food. I’m going to stock up on food.”
As he spoke to volunteers, Mr. Wang suddenly began to shed tears, sincerely touched. He expressed how, in 60 years, he’d never experienced this kind of help, and certainly not from strangers. “I’m so lucky to get to know Tzu Chi,” he said, and as he put on his helmet and pedaled away, his relief was evident.