Massachusetts state troopers return from New Jersey with Sandy stories

More than two dozen troopers accepted commendations yesterday for helping out New Jersey victims of Hurricane Sandy.

After being recognized for lending a hand to victims of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey, Lt. Michael Habel recalled the nine days he spent on the coast of the Garden State earlier this month; memories that were covered in sand.

“There were two older women who shared a house, and basically were asking us to try to find something, anything, in the sand,” Habel said. “It was sad. They wanted any memento that would help them remember their house.”

Habel was one of 25 state troopers to receive commendations Monday at State Police Headquarters in Framingham.

“When I reached out to ask if the state police would be willing to field a group of 25 people, I already knew the answer,” Undersecretary for Homeland Security and Director of MEMA, Kurt Schwartz said Monday. “The answer was a resounding yes.”

“We were basically trying to keep the peace,” Habel said. “The whole area had been evacuated, so we wanted a high visibility to ensure there was no looting.”

Trooper Andrew Fox said he witnessed first hand how desperate people were to salvage what little they could find from their ravaged homes.

“One man came to see his house, his whole cellar was filled with sand, and he had a little plastic shovel that he was using to try to dig out a safe that had all his valuables in it. It was a sad picture.”

Sgt. George Hamilton, who was stationed in Ortley Beach, said he couldn’t be more proud of his fellow officers.

“Without being asked, without being told to, they just jumped right in to help people,” said Hamilton. “They crawled through windows, into people’s houses – what was left of them – and put themselves in dangerous situations to make things a little more manageable for people.”


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