Tropical Storm Isaias ravaged the New York City area. The storm’s gusts uprooted and snapped trees in half, falling onto overhead power lines, leaving nearly 300,000 New Yorkers without power. The power loss resulted in the second-largest outage in Con Edison's history, second only to Hurricane Sandy.
Among those without power were my mother and countless family and friends throughout New York City. My mother, who survived Hurricane Sandy and being without power for days, feared the worst, as she vividly remembers what life was like when power is unavailable for the many families in her Queens neighborhood.
In 2012, I was a young journeyperson. I remember the wrath Hurricane Sandy had on New York City, and I witnessed the collaborative efforts of Local 3, its signatory contractors and Con Edison, working endless hours to restore power to all New Yorkers. I was overcome with pride, relief and a sense of solidarity when my mother let me know that a Local 3, IBEW member pulled up to her house and reconnected her overhead service to the Con Edison secondary.
When E-J Electric General Superintendent Bobby McCluskey, along with Assistant Superintendent Brian Lang and Roadway & Outdoor Specialty Division Vice President Dave Ferguson, asked me to be the foreman on the Staten Island E-J Electric/Con Edison support team, I felt that same sense of solidarity and responsibility to New York City and Local 3 as I did back in 2012.
Staten Island outages were extensive and spanned the entire island. E-J Electric, along with the Hellman Electric and Hylan Electric workforce, worked long hours to assess and fix the outages. There is always uncertainty when approaching such an enormous task, but our extensive training — from our years as apprentices to our continued education as journey men and women through the Educational and Cultural Trust Fund — kicked in like second nature. We demonstrated our lessons on working safely, being productive, and carrying ourselves as professionals, as we reconnected homes. We were confident that our training prepared us to succeed. Also comforting was knowing we had an extensive network of support, from the electrical industry, including the E-J Electric T&D (Lineman Division). E- J Electric T&D General Foreman Wayne Lynn’s 30 years of experience was invaluable to the crew. His input and confidence in our workmanship was encouraging, as we spanned the island.
After several days in Staten Island, Con Edison asked our team to support the Queens and Brooklyn Con Edison restoration initiative. Like elsewhere, countless families were impacted by the tropical storm; some families require ongoing power due to chronic health conditions for both adults and children, and parents working from home need electricity to power computers and internet connections to earn their incomes.
Of the many families, the story of one family in particular still resonates with me. It was a single-family home in South Jamaica Queens, and the family was without electricity for several days. As the crew did their “overhead line job brief,” the mother informed me that she recently lost her son to COVID- 19. She was finding comfort in daily video calls with relatives as the pandemic and the measures to mitigate the spread of the virus require people to be socially distant. Without power and without her video calls, she was experiencing her grief anew. Myself and the team on location did everything possible to help restore electricity to the home.
Encounters like this echoed across New York City, as Local 3 members worked endlessly to help relieve some of the frustration and despair caused by Tropical Storm Isaias. As a Local 3 member, I felt a great responsibility to my trade, to New York City and the IBEW, as we restored electricity to all New Yorkers.