BY ETHAN FORMAN STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — DANVERS — Danvers High graduate Kyle McCullough and his wife, Jordan, were married Sept. 15 in Rockaway, N.Y., a close-knit, working-class community on a narrow peninsula on the bottom of Long Island, where they chose to settle.
Two months later, the town was battered by Hurricane Sandy, especially hard-hit by flooding, fire and power outages.
This past weekend, the couple visited Danvers, looking for a weekend of relief from the hardships on Long Island. But they found much more than they’d ever expected.
Yesterday, they headed back to Rockaway with a U-Haul truck filled with supplies — bags of clothing, boxes of bleach and cleaning supplies, cartons of nonperishable foods — from friends and strangers who heard about the plight of the Rockaway community in a Facebook posting.
For the McCulloughs, the storm damage was all too personal. The restaurant where they held their wedding rehearsal dinner was wiped out. The rectory of the church where they were married, St. Francis de Sales, was damaged by a fire.
“Our church is intact, but it’s under a lot of water,” Jordan McCullough said. “They are setting up, and this is where we are donating everything to.”
The couple’s apartment is on a third floor, and their belongings escaped intact, but they have no heat or electricity. Kyle describes it as “unlivable.”
They’ve been told it could be six to eight weeks before they have power. Four feet of sand clogs many roads in Rockaway, Kyle said.
The salon where Jordan works in Breezy Point, a community that saw approximately 80 homes destroyed by wind-whipped fires the night of Hurricane Sandy, has been flooded and is tilting to one side. Even if the salon were usable, her clients have been displaced.
Jordan’s mother has also been displaced due to water damage.
The paper and packaging distribution company where Kyle works as a buyer is in New Jersey. It survived but is without power.
The couple, who met while Kyle, a hockey standout at Danvers High and UMass Dartmouth, was playing professional hockey with the farm system of the New Jersey Devils, evacuated to relatives in Brooklyn during the storm.
“There are a lot more people worse off than us, so that is why we are doing the best we can to get down there and help people out,” McCullough said. “We have friends walking the streets with no shoes, no jackets, absolutely nothing.”
Their truckload of supplies came by way of Kyle’s mother, Kristen Davis, who put up a request on Facebook for donations for the Rockaway community, a place that lost firefighters and police in the attacks of Sept. 11 and witnessed further tragedy when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into the neighborhood on Nov. 12, 2001.
“I said, my son is home safely, but they are heading back. ... They are going to pack some things in their car. They need bleach, gloves, little things, if anyone is willing to donate,” Davis said. “And then people started coming and kept coming. ... Fifteen minutes after I posted, we had people here.”
The donations streamed in continuously from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday. They kept coming on Sunday morning.
Some came from as far away as Waltham and filled Davis’ garage. The Danvers Falcon Marching Band showed up with bags of donations. All she had was one small sign on her house that said she was accepting donations.
“I finally had to say, ‘You have to stop, because now I can’t get the stuff back,” said Davis, who works in the Probate Court in Salem.
Brian Dalton of Danvers offered to rent a truck and drive it to Rockaway. Yesterday, with the help of Dalton’s neighbor Amy LeBlanc, they loaded up the truck for the journey to Rockaway.
Yesterday afternoon, Davis received a text from her son telling her that when the box truck pulled up in Rockaway, people came running to get the supplies.
“They are cold, they are hungry, they are freezing there. ... They were desperate to get stuff off of the truck,” Davis said.
Davis said she plans to head to Rockaway this weekend or next. The need now is not for clothes, but for batteries, flashlights, boots, trash bags, work gloves and jackets, as well as everyday essentials like diapers, toothbrushes and toothpaste, Tylenol, and other pharmacy supplies.
Anyone interested in donating can contact Davis on her cellphone, 978-812-9360, or leave donations in front of her garage door at 209 Locust St., Danvers.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.
MORE HELP FROM DANVERS
A benefit is being organized to help another Danvers High graduate, Sue O’Grady, and her family, who were displaced from their home in Bernardsville, N.J. She was a member of the Class of 1989.
The event is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 24, from 7 p.m. to closing at the Roadhouse Pub, 55 Pulaski St., Peabody. Entertainment will be provided by Diamond Disc Productions.
The public is invited. Donations for door prizes/raffles are being sought. Cash donations are also welcome. For more information, contact Jennifer (L’Italien) Carroca at 978-869-1448 or email@example.com.