It's been six months since Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast. While the media and majority of the American public have largely moved on to other news stories, the victims of Sandy continue to deal with the fallout. The government has kicked in billions of dollars in aid and insurance companies (to include FEMA) have pledged their support, but many people and businesses are still struggling to rebuild their homes and move forward with their lives in the aftermath of the tragedy.
I'm not here to judge the recovery efforts of the government or corporations because I'm not privy to their plans. In fact as a mortgage & insurance whistleblower, I'm not even welcome in any of the rooms where those recovery plans are created and implemented. I don't need to be there to know there are long hours of hard work being put in by all sides though. It's unfair to demonize those working on the relief efforts. Everyone is doing the best they know how with the resources they have available. For all good intentions, however, some people are still being left out in the cold.
Because of my connections from working on both sides of the housing crisis, I hear personal stories on an almost daily basis from people who have either lost their home or are facing foreclosure. I'm sad to say I've heard so many of these stories that it almost becomes the norm. It's not that I'm deadened to the pain; in fact it's quite the opposite. Every tale gets to me. Each person's individual story weighs heavily on my mind whether I can help or not. When you dedicate your life to helping others, you reach a point where you realize you can't help everyone. There just aren't enough ears in the world for every voice.
Photo: Yaakov Rosenthal
In the deep pool of human interest stories I've been inundated with over the last 3 years, it's the story of Devorah Schochet that I just can't get off my mind. Devorah is a 39-year-old mother of four whose home was among those damaged by Hurricane Sandy. When the storm hit, Devorah and her family had to be rescued by the Long Island Fire Department and National Guard equipped with wet suits and scuba gear. They're now among the unfortunately large number of Americans still fighting with the insurance companies to pay out their Hurricane Sandy claim. The foundation to their house washed away in the storm. Their home is now cracked and hovering over a large sinkhole. But the struggles of the Schochet family don't stop there...
After couch surfing with friends and family in the aftermath of the storm, they finally found a rental home and were able to stretch out and gather their wits...for about a minute...
Soon Devorah's daughter Sabrina required major spinal surgery to repair the damage done by a tumor she had removed 5 years earlier. In the midst of chaos, Devorah traveled back and forth between the rental house, their damaged home, and the hospital. Not only did she have to take care of her children from the storm, but her daughter required extra care during the recovery period, including tutoring to keep up with her classmates while missing school. In January, the Schochet family was able to move back into their home, despite the danger presented by living on a sinkhole. If you've ever been forced from your home, you know how good it feels to be home regardless of the danger.
Then in February, less than a month after finally getting back home, even more weight was piled on Devorah's shoulders when she herself was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), the debilitating disease that paralyzed Stephen Hawking and left him confined to his speech-generating wheelchair. She was told she has only 2-4 years to live, and she's destined to spend that time losing motor functions as her body degenerates. The tragedies faced by Devorah and her family filled me with sorrow, but what finally brought a tear to my eye was watching this news clip tonight:
View more videos at: http://nbcnewyork.com.
Despite everything this family has gone through, Devorah is smiling. She and her family hit rock bottom more times in the last 6 months than anyone should ever have to go through. A lot of people would break down and give up facing even 1 of the tragic events this family has experienced since Hurricane Sandy. Not only is she smiling, but she fills her blog with positive words of hope. At a time when most people choose to lay down with their hand out waiting for help, Devorah rolled up her sleeves and got to work. Her response to these overwhelming odds inspired me in ways I can't even describe...so I got out my laptop to do what I do best: amplify her voice.
I realize there are a lot of things going on in the world today, but if the story of Devorah Schochet touched you the way it touched me, there's a way you can help as well. Tired of watching her battle her insurance company, Devorah's friends set up a website to accept donations necessary to rebuild her family's home and make it handicapped accessible. From my perspective, Devorah is a hero. I know in my heart she'll outlast her doctor's diagnosis, but regardless of how much time she has left, she deserves the comfort of knowing her family is safe in their home. She deserves to have her entire home accessible to her and her family.
Please join me in acknowledging Devorah's courage and helping her family rebuild. Help me show her what makes this country great.
Click Here to view Devorah's blog
Click Here to make a donation
Brian Penny is a former business analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower and freelance writer. He's a frequent contributor to Mainstreet, Lifehack, and HardcoreDroid and an affiliate of Manduka and GetVoIP.com. He documents his experiences working with Anonymous, practicing yoga, and fighting the banks on his blog.
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