The town of Long Beach, NY (pop. 33,000) is a tightly-knit community south of Long Island, the kind of place where neighbors look out for each other. It also happens to be the hometown of one of the unsung heroes of Flight 1549: Patrick Harten, the air traffic controller who so skillfully and calmly tried to help me and First Officer Jeff Skiles reach a runway that day. Patrick and I have grown to be friends in the last few years, and I know him to be not only a consummate professional and a dedicated family man, but also the kind of neighbor anyone would be lucky to have. So when Patrick recently shared with me how difficult life has been in Long Beach since it was devastated by Hurricane Sandy nearly seven weeks ago, I was determined to help.
Patrick and his family had to move in with relatives when their house was flooded. That’s hard. But he has friends who have lost everything. The neighborhood’s pre-school was totally destroyed and the owner is trying to rebuild. Another couple is struggling to repair their storm-damaged house, with only minimal insurance. Many others have lost their jobs because their workplaces were destroyed by the storm. Family upon family has discovered that their insurance does not cover flood damage. Many of Patrick’s neighbors, their homes and livelihoods ruined, would just be happy to find a place to rent.
New York Times writer Michael Winerip captures the spirit and trials of his hometown beautifully in this piece: The Night the Dune Failed.
For Patrick and his neighbors, the holiday season will be spent trying to get back on their feet. Thankfully, in this season of giving, there’s something we can all do to help. I’m pleased to let you know that we have partnered with The Long Beach Christmas Angel, an organization that helps families in the community. Christmas Angel pays providers directly for a family’s needs: if someone can’t meet their utility bills or rent, Christmas Angel will pay the bill directly to the utility company – or landlord. This year, Christmas Angel will dedicate its efforts to rebuilding families’ lives in the wake of the storm. Gifts to this site will go directly to assist families in need: Christmas Angel.
Patrick also connected us with Jack Schnirman, the Long Beach city manager. Long Beach has established a relief fund that will go towards rebuilding community businesses and infrastructure so that Long Beach can thrive again: City relief fund.
As we gather with friends and family and count our blessings this holiday season, I’ll be thinking of my friend Patrick, his family and his community – and hoping that our gifts can make their lives just a little easier. Patrick was there for the passengers and crew of Flight 1549: now it’s our turn to be there for him. Please help by making a donation today.