Cooking away the storm in Meadowmere Park

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Frank Zerbe, 70, who has emphysema, and his wife initially stayed in their house, but after it was inundated by five feet of water, there was no electricity and no gas, and they needed a place for a meal, Zerbe said as he ate some eggs. His house is severely damaged and their lone car flooded, but the generosity of the firefighters raised his spirits, he said. “Since the day after Sandy,” he said, “these people have been the best people on earth.”

Lawrence Middle School students Madelyne Schmitt, 12, a seventh-grader, and sixth-grader Erica Pagano, 10, shuffled a deck of cards before beginning a game. Both girls said it was strange not going to school. “It’s fun, but I’m missing friends,” said Madelyne.

“It feels like summer,” said Erica.

Madelyne added that the home she shares with her mother, Abbey, and her older brother, Andrew, 20, was damaged, but her outlook on the aftermath was a mature one. “I can’t complain,” she said. “Everyone is together and everyone is safe, and that’s all that matters.”

Erica’s family endured a harrowing experience, as their oil tank leaked during the storm on Oct. 29 and the odor filled the house. Meadowmere Park firefighters rescued four adults and six children from the house, using its inflatable boat — which was punctured when it hit a fence, but no one was injured. “My 4-old-year cousin tells my 17-year-old sister the best thing to do in a bad situation is to remain calm,” Erica said.

Fire Department help

Meadowmere firefighters had the help of their 3rd Battalion brethren from the Lawrence-Cedarhurst, Hewlett, Inwood, Woodmere and Valley Stream departments, as well as from the upstate department of Chatham. Geography makes it difficult to respond to a major emergency in 3rd Battalion communities, Lawrence-Cedarhurst Fire Chief Joseph Sperber explained.

“Due to its location on the southernmost westerly area on the border of Queens and a barrier island, it’s always a challenge to get additional resources to assist when a major incident occurs,” Sperber said. “The departments in the 3rd Battalion have always counted on one another for assistance.”

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