After Hurricane Sandy made its way up the eastern seaboard taking lives and leaving thousands homeless and millions without power and/or utilities, Larry Pelfrey of Versailles was one of the Jr. people who responded to help people get their utilities up and running again.
The hurricane slammed New Jersey October 29 bringing with it surges of seawater, flooding streets, destroying power lines and displacing hundreds of homes and businesses.
The disaster that was dubbed "Frankenstorm" or "Super" storm lived up to its name. It went on to take parts of New York bringing the city to a standstill.
Thousands of volunteers flooded the area bringing needed emergency supplies and then crews moved in to help with restoring the utilities in some fashion.
Pelfrey went with his company, KS Energy out of Milford, OH, to work on natural gas lines.
He and his wife, Rhonda, remember the call he received on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, before he left on Tues. November 13. The room was quiet, and they both knew he was going to be gone for a while.
Larry said he went to Breezy Point on Long Island, NY, where the site was disbelief. "Seeing it in real life was breathtaking," he told The Versailles Republican, as his family gathered around him in his comfortable home after he returned.
Larry saw the burning houses first hand that many saw on television. He saw boats that had been slung inside of businesses and sand up to four feet deep in subdivisions, just to name a few of the catastropic scenes.
When his crew first moved in, he described sleeping in a huge army tent on cots. He said there were about 500 workers, who slept in the cold at first and took cold showers. The crews worked 16-hour days, seven days a week.
Larry said eventually they moved into a hotel where living accommodations were much better. He said he couldn't complain when he would work among people who would show him mountains of debris and describe it as "their life" in rubbles. He said the people were so thankful to have their kitchen stove working after he would fix their natural gas line.
Spending his long hours capping and restoring gas lines, Larry said he didn't realize just how much he would miss home until he was gone for over a month. Rhonda said the family "sacrificed" having Larry gone. She said in their 22 years together and nearly 18 year marriage, they had never been separated like this. "It was hard, especially at Thanksgiving," Rhonda noted.
On Thanksgiving Day, Larry said the workers were all on their phones calling home. He said while they had a nice meal, it was nothing like home and he really missed that.
Larry said he heard some sad stories while in Breezy Point. He told about a guy who lived in Queens on the beach. He said he was watching TV when his electric went out. He opened the basement door and the water was pouring in. He moved to the next level of his home, but the water kept coming up. By the time the man was in the attic of his home, the water stopped just four inches shy of taking his life.
Another elderly man told how he had spent his life savings on his home- and Sandy came and took it all away.
Larry said he saw it as an opportunity for him to travel to a different place, since he hasn't done much traveling in his lifetime and get to help others. The two fold mission was completed on December 15 when he arrived back home.
He surprised his wife, knowing she thought he was coming home on Dec. 22. "He was calling me and I thought he was still out there (in New York)," Rhonda said. Pretty soon he was still talking to her and said "look outside". Sure enough his vehicle was pulling into the driveway. Rhonda said she along with their three sons: Nathaniel, 14, Kyle, 11, and Tyler, 8 were all hugging him at the same time.
Larry said the experience gave him more respect for the military and for people who help those in need, along with the needy. It was an experience he will never forget and one that he says he'll repeat if given the opportunity.
While he was gone, Rhonda had to take care of everything at home, including taking care of their three sons. The boys, who are all students at South Ripley schools, were glad to help with their dad's chores while he was gone, but said, they were sure glad he was back.
The darkness after daylight is something Larry described as being eery, along with the mountains of rubble that people's lives had been reduced to in a short period of time. He said it makes you humble and makes you really appreciate what you have.