Milwaukee Marine helps rescue 14 trapped New Yorkers during Sandy

BROOKLYN -- A Milwaukee Marine was one of a group of Marines who helped rescue 14 New Yorkers trapped by Hurricane Sandy.

As Sandy made landfall Monday, October 29th, a transformer in Queens burst, triggering a house fire that spread to adjacent buildings. Because of the fire and the rising floodwaters, many residents were trapped.

First responders attempted to help stranded residents, but they were also trapped, bringing the number of those marooned to 14. The water was too deep for the emergency services units, so the NYPD called on Marines for support.

Sgt. Jorge Negron of Milwaukee -- a ground radio repairman with 6th Communications Battalion was one of those who came to the aid of those trapped.

“We were just checking (our training center) for damage because the storm was getting pretty bad. The police showed up at the gate and, after getting approval, there was no hesitation. It was just ‘yeah, of course we’ll help,'" Sgt. Negron said.

There were two fires raging when the Marines arrived at the scene. One of the fires eventually destroyed 111 houses, and the other burned at a power plant.

“When we turned the corner (and seeing the homes ablaze), it was the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen. The entire block was on fire. It looked like the road to Armageddon," Sgt. Negron said.

The first responders’ vehicles were either water-logged or not large enough to enter the floodwaters, so over the next five hours, the Marines transported members of local police and fire departments to different areas of the neighborhood.

“The bravery and dedication I saw was so great. Everyone was riding in our truck and then the police would hop into their raft and go to a family in need and the fire department would get in their (rafts) and go straight to a fire," Negron said.

Lt. Col. Richard Bordonaro reinforced how harrowing the situation was for everyone.

“We lost communication with the Marines several times. The winds were high and cell phone reception was sketchy at best. All across New York you could see mass destruction. I talked to the Marines before they went out, and they were ready. The conditions were dangerous; some first responders had already been trapped. But the Marines went out and performed. They knew they were saving peoples’ lives,” Lt. Col. Bordonaro said.

The 6th Communication Battalion is a Marines Reserve unit headquartered in Brooklyn, N.Y. The unit specializes in communications and is trained to provide radio, cyber, wire/switching, and satellite services to support Marine Expeditionary Forces.

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