SANTA FE (KRQE) - A former New York fire inspector who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks is still trying to help the city during its new time of need but now from an office in New Mexico.
"It was really tough," Arthur Koenemund said reflecting on the calamity of 11 years ago. "It was emotionally draining. It was terrible."
While work was put on hold for most, he was reporting for duty as deputy chief fire inspector.
"I worked the pile for 20 plus hours, went home and got rest, came back at 8 the next morning, worked another 20 hours," he added
Koenemund left New York in 2002, but the plaques and posters in his office prove New York never left him.
So, when disaster struck there nearly two weeks ago with Superstorm Sandy, he had to respond even from more than a thousand miles away.
"I grew up there with the volunteer fire department and all that, and it's like, I feel helpless that I can't be there," Koenemund said.
So now he's collecting necessities like blankets, towels and toiletries out of his small office at the New Mexico Department of Health.
He sent out letters and put up signs and said in less than a week he has enough to fill a 30-foot trailer.
It's all for the town of Breezy Point, which was engulfed in flames after Sandy, and his nearby hometown of Hamilton Beach.
"People lost everything," Koenemund said. "People lost their vehicles. People lost their homes.
"There is only one person I know who lost their life: a friend of mine's grandmother. They found her floating in the high tide."
Koenemund is collecting donations for another two weeks before sending volunteers at a local church to New York with the supplies after Thanksgiving.
"People in these communities are strong and resilient," Koenemund continued. "They're going to bounce back, but it's not going to happen too soon.
"It's going to be a long time before they bounce back."
For more information or to help, Koenemund can be contacted by e-mail or by calling (505) 903-4472.
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