Hurricane Matthew battered thousands of buildings and trees and caused widespread power outages and flooding throughout the Lowcountry in the early morning hours of Oct. 8. But the Category 2 storm didn’t dampen the resolve of residents determined to help their neighbors — and complete strangers — who were suffering. Read here about some of these unsung heroes.
Mitch Trupia was in downtown Brooklyn working for his construction design business on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
When he finally did get back home after hours of traffic that afternoon, he said he felt the need to help out at ground zero.
“I just couldn’t leave. I just felt so called,” Trupia said. “I went back and volunteered with the Red Cross the next day.”
It was the start of about three weeks of civilian rescue and recovery work. Trupia, a 50-year-old musician who now lives in Indigo Run on Hilton Head Island, said he struggles with health problems related to his time at ground zero.
“9/11 changed me and took me out of being sort of a self-centered business owner to seeing that there’s more to life,” Trupia said. “There’s a bigger picture.”
As the Lowcountry braced for Hurricane Matthew, he felt a familiar feeling — that he had to do something.
“As crazy as the world is, I still believe that there’s a lot of good people in the world that will help each other. And then as I was thinking that, I was like, ‘Well, I have to be that person,’” Trupia said. “It’s wrong for me to not try to help.”
I still believe that there’s a lot of good people in the world that will help each other. And then as I was thinking that, I was like, ‘Well, I have to be that person.’
Mitch Trupia, Red Cross volunteer
Trupia contacted the Red Cross again and spent several days volunteering at a shelter established at Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School in Jasper County.
“I never had done shelter work before, and I didn’t know what that was going to be like,” he said. “And it was so many people.”
The night of the storm, Red Cross volunteers helped move residents from one building into another building where it was believed to be safer.
“I was the guy moving all the disabled in the wheelchairs and everything to the next building through the driving rain,” Trupia said. “You try to not be afraid because you’re the guy helping.
“It takes your mind away from how afraid you really are.”
Some of the volunteers and residents alike huddled and slept in the hallways, which became partially flooded.
Trupia said he volunteered for several more days as residents waited to return to their homes. He said he was inspired by some of the other volunteers he worked with.
“The Red Cross had one nurse for almost 800 people. She’s my hero,” he said, laughing.
Trupia wishes he could have done more at the shelter. Now, his focus is returning to moving to a new house, something he was in the process of doing when Hurricane Matthew struck.
“You’re moving for so many days. I guess, it was almost a week. And then you have to stop,” he said about volunteering. “Your whole mind and body doesn’t really want to stop.”
“As soon as I’ve settled into the new place, I’m going to sleep for a month.”