LONG BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — They were here for September 11th. They worked amid Hurricane Katrina and when the call came that emergency medical help was needed for Sandy victims, the federal disaster team flew in and set up hospital tents in the Tri-State Area.
They weren’t able to enjoy turkey with all the trimmings this Thanksgiving, but for those dispatched by the federal government to aid those ravaged by the superstorm, their ready-to-eat military meal tasted just fine.
“No pumpkin pie, but plenty of skittles and these are like gold. So you defend them with your life,” Dr. Gregory Serfer of Maryland told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.
“[It’s] as close to turkey as we’re going to get,” said registered nurse Lori Kimmel, of Florida, referring to her chicken breast meat meal with chunky salsa.
It was all topped off with a toast of coconut water.
However, at the state-of-the-art tent emergency rooms on Long Island, helping the Sandy victims through the disaster has been a labor of love.
For weeks, the National Disaster Medical Assistance Team has slept in the tents on Long Beach. It’s been the place where they have also eaten and bonded with the community, whose hospital was flooded.
“A lot of respiratory problems, exacerbations of asthma due to the amount of debris in the air,” Serfer said.
“We have done a lot of tetanus shots,” said Kimmel.
But what Serfer and Kimmel are not sharing with their patients are their own personal hardships
Dr. Serfer is a new dad. His baby daughter was born just before he got the call to deploy to Long Beach.
“Newborn daughter’s first Thanksgiving and I’m away from both her and my wife,” Serfer said. “I’m sad for that, however, the reward of coming here and helping the community makes up for it.”
Nurse Kimmel’s son is in the Peace Corps and just arrived home from South Africa after being away for three years.
She had arranged for the entire family to run the turkey trot in their Florida hometown before getting the call for service.
“I’m not going to be there now. I’m going to be up in New York. So they decided to do the race anyway in my honor,” Kimmel said. “I’m sad not being with my family, I’d love to be with them, but to be with the people up here — to see the resilience,” Kimmel said.
“We appreciate them letting us come out here and help out, because it’s been an honor to do so. We wish them all the best and a Happy Thanksgiving,” Serfer said.
After three weeks, the federal emergency team will soon return home, having helped nearly 1,000 victims across the South Shore.