Inspiring Stories: The Heroes of Hurricane Sandy

When Sandy hit the East Coast, these American heroes sprang into action, proving that spirit can survive any storm.

By Alison Caporimo and Caitlin O'Connell from Reader's Digest Magazine

Inspiring Stories: The Heroes of Hurricane SandyPhotograph by Ed KashiJennifer Kaufman
The Little Engine That Could

Before Hurricane Sandy slammed the East Coast, Jennifer Kaufman, 47, had used her little 2005 silver Vespa just to zip around Washington Township, New Jersey, where she lived. Kaufman, a high school English and computer teacher, had never thought of the scooter as an emergency vehicle.

The day after the storm, though, Kaufman heard reports of the devastation in her area and quickly decided to volunteer in nearby Little Ferry, where the Hackensack River had flooded the town. And she knew, with the roads nearly impassable and an impending gas shortage, that her Volkswagen wouldn’t navigate the tough conditions as well as her fuel- efficient scooter. So she headed toward Little Ferry, with the scooter’s tiny under-seat trunk stuffed with blankets and winter clothing.

When she got there, “huge piles of drywall, carpeting, and people’s personal belongings were out on the curb,” says Kaufman. She helped a woman clean out her ruined home and pitched in to collect food and warm clothing for needy residents

In the frigid days following the storm, Kaufman used her scooter in a resourceful way. Because of gas rationing, local police, ambulance workers, and rescue volunteers were having a hard time getting to the Jersey Shore, one of the areas hardest hit by the storm. So Kaufman set out to locate the gas stations that still had fuel and to note how long the lines were. She relayed the numbers to reporter Myles Ma, who pushed the information to the website and Twitter feed. “Jennifer was a huge help,” says Ma. “Our gas lists were among the most read pages on the site after the storm.”

Kaufman insists she was just one of many charitable spirits on the scene. “There were so many people doing exactly what I was doing,” she says. “I was just doing it on a scooter.”

Next: The amazing story of a memorial that survived despite all odds.

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