John Nolan, retired FDNY lieutenant, worked to rebuild homes in Sandy-devastated communities after the superstorm and became one of the area’s many “unsung heroes.”
Now, Shell Rotella, an engine oil organization, has highlighted Nolan and several others in a short-form documentary series, “Unsung Heroes,” that tells the stories of these overlooked saviors and how their work and lifestyles are intertwined.
Nolan’s nearly five-minute clip opens up with the firefighter-turned-contractor pulling up to Breezy Point’s fire zone, which was reduced from over 100 homes to just rubble.
He said the night of the storm, the 500 active firemen in the neighborhood tried to save whatever they could after floodwaters rose high and a blaze broke out, catching quickly.
“Early evening when the fire started, it went to high winds, homes were catching fire one right after the other,” he said.
A shift in the wind allowed the Fire Department to get water on the houses that hadn’t yet started burning, but even still, the day after “it was just massive destruction everywhere,” Nolan said. “The entire community needed help.”
He and others from the fire “brotherhood” worked through the summer to get the beach front community back on its feet.
“We came together as the Fire Department always does and did whatever we had to do to get the people back into their homes,” he said. “It seems like every day is a sense of urgency; there aren’t enough hours in the day.”
He continued, “In Queens, you don’t judge a guy by how tough he is, by how many guys he can knock down. You judge a guy by how many times he can get back up,” he said. “That’s the Rockaway, Breezy community. They’re a resilient group of people.”
Nolan’s story and the other “unsung heroes” can be seen on www.youtube.com/rotellaunsung.
“Working on a project like “Unsung” really opened my eyes to the men and women working tirelessly to keep this country moving,” said Geoffrey Campbell, producer of the documentaries. “I have a newfound gratitude for the many people who put in long hours and work hard in a truck each day.”
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