At 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, as the State of Connecticut and the nation continued to mourn the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, a group of East Haven High School students and their U.S. History teacher Tony Vaspasiano were fulfilling a promise made weeks ago to victims of Super Storm Sandy.
Vaspasiano's students, their families and their neighbors know what it's like to suffer through a major weather event. When Tropical Storm Irene tore through East Haven in August of 2011 it destroyed more than 20 homes and some residents lost power for more than a week. The town's recovery continues to this day.
"People from outside Connecticut really came to East Haven's aid in the immediate wake of Tropical Storm Irene, providing whatever goods and services they could to help our community cope with some very difficult days," Vaspasiano said. "When Sandy hit the northeast in late October and my students witnessed the devastation in New York and New Jersey, they wanted to do something to return the favor."
Storm surge from Super Storm Sandy hit East Haven hard too, but the damage was not nearly as extensive in Connecticut as it was in Staten Island, New York.
So, Vaspasiano and his students organized a donation drive collecting clothes, jackets, personal hygiene products, school supplies, and even some toys.
They collected enough donations to fill the entire cargo area of a coach bus plus several seats in the cabin. Tuesday morning, Vaspasiano and more than two dozen of his students filled the other seats on that bus and traveled to a hurricane relief center in Staten Island.
The bus and a driver were provided free of charge by Connecticut Limousine and its owner, Andy Anastasio. Vaspasiano organized the delivery of the goods through his state senator, Len Fasano (R-34). Both Anastasio and Fasano grew up in East Haven.
"It's so important to teach our children about civic responsibility and community. In the past few days, we've learned a lot about community from the people of Newtown, CT in the way they've conducted themselves in the wake of unspeakable heartache and tragedy. In America, people help one another in their time of need," said Senator Fasano. "Others helped East Haven when we needed help and these high school students are doing their part to return the favor now. I'm so proud of them."
Anastasio addressed the students before they departed for New York.
He said, "Be proud of this moment and continue doing stuff like this. If we had more people in America today doing the things you're doing; giving of yourself; putting time in to helping others we'd have an even better country. You all deserve a round of applause."
Senator Fasano coordinated the delivery of goods with New York State Senator Andrew Lanza (R-24). Connecticut State Representative Jim Albis (D-99) was on hand to help load the truck in East Haven.