Six months after Superstorm Sandy tore through Breezy Point, N.Y., unleashing a wave of destruction on the small beach community, the damage is still staggering and memories of that night are still so vivid.
"Horrific comes to mind," Marty Ingram, chief of Point Breeze's volunteer fire department, told " Good Morning America."
Ingram and his team of volunteer firefighters were at the ready at the firehouse the night Sandy headed ashore. "All of a sudden the water kept coming in … and we said, 'This is bad. This is real bad,'" he recalled.
The wind-whipping flood waters rose 8-ft high and Ingram and his team fled the firehouse to get to work in the small community on the tip of the Rockaway peninsula in Queens. Hurricane-force gusts blew embers and quickly grew to a six-alarm blaze, setting house after house ablaze in one of the worst residential fires in New York City history; all the while, Ingram and his crew never abandoned their neighbors.
One hundred and twenty five houses were reduced to ashes in the Oct. 29, 2012 storm. The firehouse was almost completely destroyed by floodwater.
Today, the community is still recovering; of the nearly 3,000 homes, most are either vacant or demolished. The volunteer fire house, which for many symbolizes the heart and soul of the neighborhood, is partially restored, but more work needs to be done.
The firehouse lost much of its first-responder equipment in the storm, and they are raising money to add a second floor to make the firehouse a safe height to withstand the threat from any future rising flood waters.
To honor the firefighters who risked their lives to save others, Sam Champion made a special visit to Breezy Point today. As part of "GMA's" "You're Not Dreaming!" series, Champion knocked on the door, surprising the firefighters with a $10,000 check from Direct Relief, a medical relief organization, to make the costly repairs a reality.
In addition, Direct Relief's president, Thomas Tighe presented the check to Ingram. Direct Relief will also donate specially-made first responder kits, containing supplies and equipment to meet a variety of prevalent disaster-related health needs, to the team. The packs ensure that first responders have the right tools to respond when disaster strikes.
That's wasn't the only surprise for the local heroes. The Westchester, N.Y. chapter of Habitat for Humanity will give the supplies and manpower to help get the firehouse get back up and running at its best.
"A long time after we are gone, they will be there, saving lives and stopping fires," said Jim Killoran, executive director of Westchester, NY chapter of Habitat for Humanity.