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After long search, son finds elderly father in Hoboken

November 01, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • Mud and debris liiter a street in Hoboken, N.J., which was hit hard by the storm.
Mud and debris liiter a street in Hoboken, N.J., which was hit hard by the… (Brenden Smialowski / AFP…)

HOBOKEN, N.J. -- After Hurricane Sandy tore through New Jersey and flooded a swath of Hoboken, 82-year-old Apolinar "Apollo" Ramirez, didn't want to leave his unit to stay in a shelter with strangers.

Then his building's backup generators began to teeter toward failure--and just in time, Ramirez's son came to the rescue.

With power gone, Angel Ramirez, 62, could not reach his father. He went searching for him at shelters in two Hoboken churches. Finally, the younger Ramirez hopped on a truck with New Jersey National Guardsmen, who drove through waist-high water to his father's building. 

There, he found his father and about a dozen other residents, whose emergency power was sputtering.

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It took some wrangling, but Ramirez finally persuaded his father to board the truck and get to Saints Peter & Paul Church, where 32 storm refugees sought shelter. Upstairs in the sanctuary, dozens of energy-hungry people clustered around power strips, charging their computers and cellphones.

Ramirez said that although his father he was still agitated Thursday, he's relieved he got the older man into the church. Taking his father to his powerless apartment wasn't an option.

He said his father's story is a common one here.

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"People are going to their family's place or people are not leaving their homes because they're afraid something might happen," like looting, he said.

He said officials could have prepared a bit better.

"They should probably have portable generators stationed at the schools. That would have been better for the seniors. But I guess we underestimated the strength of the storm," he said.

Those staying at the shelter included families and elderly who needed to charge electrical equipment such as oxygen tanks. 

Lissette Melendez, 42, a disabled crossing guard, brought her two children, 13 and 11, to the Saints Peter & Paul shelter after their apartment lost power. First they stayed at the local elementary school shelter, then that lost power. They were supposed to move to the high school, but it lost power too.

"After this," Melendez said, "we're getting camping gear."


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