In the afternoon of Oct. 29, Dr. Wojeck Skrzypiec sent his wife and the family's two German Shepard dogs off to upstate New York to wait out hurricane Sandy. But instead of leaving with his wife, Skrzypiec called into New Jersey from his Staten Island home to a fellow doctor and offered to take his shift in the intensive care unit at Staten Island University Hospital that evening.
"I was staying behind anyway and one of us has to be on the unit at all times, so I figured it might as well be me" explains Skrzypiec.
As he left his home, the good doctor had no idea what he would be returning to after the storm passed.
"My home is the first house off the Raritan Bay," said Skrzypiec. "It is raised a bit, but there are no basements that close to the water. When I came home I was in shock. The water was up to the second floor. There was no power, no water, and no heat. But I had a house, some people did not even have that."
For the first few days Skrzypiec called around to local plumbers and electricians to determine what it would take to get service returned to his home.
"I was very lucky. In order to have electric restored, you needed to have a certificate of inspection. There were guys going around saying they were electricians asking for $500 to $600 for the certificate. I found a licensed electrician who came in, did the inspection and charged me $75. But I couldn't find a plumber that was willing to replace my boiler and my hot water heater. And on top of that there were no units even available for sale in New York or New Jersey, even if I could have found the plumber."
Skrzypiec explains this is where his friend Adam Wieckowski comes in.
Wieckowski, like Skrzypiec, is a native of Poland. The two have been friends with Skrzypiec for many years. Wieckowski has a business in New York, but also has a home in Penn Forest Township, where he spends a lot of his time.
"I came to this country 20 years ago, with $20 in my pocket and requested political asylum. The U.S. welcomed me. I love this country," said Wieckowski.
"When Wojeck called me I knew I had to do something. So I called my friend Todd Leslie, who is the owner of TML Plumbing and Heating in Nesquehoning."
"I have known Adam for 15, maybe 18 years," said Leslie, "so when he called me and asked if there was any way I could check this out for his friend, I couldn't say no.
"Last Thursday night my son Tyler, my brother-in-law Chris Vogal, and I took a ride out to Staten Island to see what needed to be done," said Leslie. "When we arrived we were in shock. You see pictures on TV or in the newspaper, but nothing prepares you for what you see in person. It looked like a bomb had gone off.
"Wojeck's house is about a block and a half from the bay. There was nothing left between his house and the water; everything was gone. We saw boats in people's front yards that were a mile away from where they had been docked before the storm," said Leslie.
"I understand that there were like 17 homes lost in that neighborhood. It was just shocking.
"I live in Nesquehoning, we lost power for like 12 or 14 hours and people were (complaining). Those people have no idea how lucky they are," Leslie stated.
Leslie and Vogal returned home and on Friday, Leslie collected all of the materials he needed to make the repairs to the Skrzypiec home. The two set off at 4 a.m. on Saturday for Staten Island.
"I couldn't believe it. By dinner time on Saturday, they were done," said a grateful Skrzypiec. "I paid for the gas furnace and the hot water heater, but Todd and Chris refused to accept any money for their time, their labor or their travel expenses. We are just so grateful."
"You really need to thank Adam" said Leslie, "He is the one who got the ball rolling. This was the least I could do. Anyone who knows Adam Wieckowski knows he is a special guy and a close friend."
According to Dr. Skrzypiec the first floor of his home has been gutted and they are still waiting for it to completely dry out before they can proceed with any other repairs. The Skrzypiec family were prepared and had purchased flood insurance.