Electricity tops the list of all the things Joan Gallagher no longer has.
“Everything from the first floor is in the dumpster, or on its way there,” Gallagher says via a phone interview.
Not everything made it into the dumpster.
Her muddy NYSUT Solidarity Day pin from Sept. 19, 1981 was one of the last thing Mark Sharer cleaned out of her home Sept. 16. He asked her if he could take it and she said “as long as I get it back.”
Is it just coincidence Mark brought it to NYSUT exactly 30 years after Joan wore it as a social studies teacher and proud member of the Pearl River Teachers Association?
Mark reported out to Communications staff at NYSUT he was surprised to see so much devastation last week.
“Tons and tons of items. People’s entire lives, put out on the street,” Mark said. He was one of 15 NYSUT staffers who volunteered to help in the community for the day. While most people were dug and dumped hundreds of buckets of mud out of a house, Mark was dispatched to locate Joan Gallagher. NYSUT heard about Joan due to the concern of Schoharie President, Martin Messner. Messner met her at a FEMA office and learned how she had already gone through most of her savings on cleanup yet still did not have everything removed.
“It’s true, I’ve gone through $25,000 and I still had so much that had to be cleared out,” Joan said.
I asked her if it was okay to let people know the extent of her situation and she starting listing other NYSUT members, active and retired, who she knew were in a similar straits. She knows about NYSUT’s Disaster Relief Fund and she will apply for it, when she gets a chance. She urged that people consider giving to the fund because it is direct assistance to union members. Here’s a link on how to give.
“So often unions are there for those in need, that we tend to forget our own,” Gallagher said. “So many of us still need so much help. I’m so proud to be in NYSUT.”
Below are some of the pictures El-Wise Noisette took from Sept. 16. Sharer, and other NYSUT staffers, have noted that pictures don’t do justice to the devastation.
“The smell is so strong, and I asked one of the guys from the professional cleaning company if it’s from the chemicals they were using and the guys said ‘That’s straight-up mold you are smelling’ and they strongly said to wear the mask. I did, but even with the mask, I got a splitting headache,” Sharer said.