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South Glens Falls family stranded in Florida

ENGLEWOOD, Fla. — A local family was scheduled to head home from Southern Florida to South Glens Falls early Saturday morning. But because of Hurricane Irma’s threatening power, their flight was canceled several days ago.

And ever since, Dan Fitzgibbon and Rebecca Sharrow and their two young children have been trying to get home; price gouging has made it nearly impossible to leave.

“They (airlines) are charging $1,300 a piece. It would have been $5,200 without taxes to get home,” said Fitzgibbon, who works in the operating room at Glens Falls Hospital. “They want $300 a day to rent a car.”

And even if they rented a car, getting gas is rough.

“They are charging $9.99 for a gallon of gas,” Fitzgibbon said. “And people are running out of gas. We heard that it is taking 24 hours to get out of Florida and there isn’t enough gas.”

The South Glens Falls family has been visiting Sharrow’s father in Englewood, Sarasota County. Englewood is on the Gulf Coast, about an hour North of Fort Meyers.

And since Irma changed its route, they are now in the direct path of the storm.

Fitzgibbon said that Sharrow is very nervous and they both worry about their children, a 9-month-old and two-year-old.

“We’re going to be getting hit about 11 or 12 tonight,” he said. And they told us to hold on from 3 a.m. to 11 p.m., about 18 hours.”

According to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Irma is moving toward the west-northwest at about nine mph; the eye of Irma was moving toward the north coast of Cuba early Saturday evening and is expected to reach the Florida Keys Sunday morning. Irma is expected to move along or near the southwest coast of Florida on Sunday afternoon.

On Saturday evening, it was a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, but she is forecast to strengthen once she moves away from Cuba and will remain a powerful hurricane as she approaches Florida.

Fitzgibbon said that the winds are already picking up.

“We went to see the beach, and on one side the sky is very blue, the other side is dark,” he said. “The winds are now about 10 to 15 mph.”

Originally, the family had planned a vacation on Cape Cod, but because of Hurricane Harvey decided to go to Florida instead. And the way it stands right now, they can’t get a flight home until next Wednesday.

“We had to call the hospital to say we won’t be coming in,” Fitzgibbon said. Sharrow, who was named nurse of the year, also works in the OR at Glens Falls Hospital.

In Englewood, the hospital already closed and relocated patients north, he said.

So like others remaining behind, they started getting ready a few days ago, making sure all windows were boarded up and that they had several days of food and supplies, although water is now $15 for a case.

“I’ve never been through anything like this. I went to the store this morning, and people were just grabbing things,” he said. “I was just watching it.”

They were able to buy the last sheets of roofing plywood and once they boarded their windows, they went to neighbors’ homes and boarded those.

“Some of the people who live here are snowbirds and are gone in the summer,” Fitzgibbon said. “We took everything off their lanais and put them in their homes and boarded their windows.”

Sharrow’s father’s home is stucco and that makes them a bit more comfortable. But they do not have a generator. That means preparing for no power.

“We cooked up everything in the freezer so it wouldn’t spoil,” he said. “We have about three days of food.”

With temperatures in the mid-90s, losing power also means it will get very uncomfortable when the air conditioning stops.

“Rebecca’s dad said that he was cranking it as low as he can so it will stay cool longer,” he said.

Fitzgibbon, who was recently named to The Post-Star’s 20 under 40, said that he will continue to share their experience for as long as he can.

9/11: Too gruesome to ever forget
Retired New York City Police Officer recalls day of attack

SOUTH GLENS FALLS — Every Sept. 11, retired New York City Police Officer Hazamoon Lisa Cahill relives the images, smells and sensations of a day too gruesome to look at and too haunting to forget.

And as she recounts the details of the attack from her South Glens Falls home on Friday, she must repeatedly pause the telling to garner the strength to continue. But she does because she said the stories of the people of 9/11 deserve to be told. Must be told.

“Their voices should be heard,” Cahill, 45, said.

On 9/11, 19 Islamic terrorists boarded and hijacked four airplanes in a suicide pact to inflict irreparable damage to the U.S. The first of the four planes, an American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel, crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City, starting a quick succession of deadly crashes: The south tower of the World Trade Center; the Pentagon; and the final plane fell from the sky, crashing into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania and killing all 44 on board.

The death toll continued to mount, nearing almost 3,000 lives, including 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority police officers.

“Never forget, we are always under attack, no matter how much time goes by,” Cahill said. “When 9/11 comes, I want people to remember.”

Officer Cahill was stationed at One Police Plaza with the Headquarters Security Unit, working for the police commissioner along with her NYPD partner, Anaya Price.

Federally trained in bomb and contraband detection, she was certified by the U.S. Marshals Service to operate a magnetometer — which uses an electromagnetic field to detect metal objects, such as concealed handguns — and for more than seven years she and Price protected the commissioner and other city officials.

Cahill recalls a New York Daily News story on Sept. 10, 2001. It was about a bombing in Israel. “I said to someone, ‘Thank God we don’t have to deal with this on U.S. soil,’ ” she said.

On 9/11, she went to work like always: Roll Call, 0710 hours.

“I woke up and had coffee and took my vitamins. The sky was so blue, it was a crisp blue day,” she said.

And like she did every day, Cahill slipped a small, narrow black and white picture of her 23-year-old mother, who died during her birth at Brooklyn Women’s Hospital, into a pocket inside her police uniform hat.

“At 0830 hours a co-worker took a break and there were several companies of police recruits waiting out front to pick up uniforms,” she said. “A little after that our building shook, I looked over my shoulder and I received a wry smile from our secretary, Marianne. She said, ‘Lisa, we were just bombed.’ I was thinking to myself, we don’t have any rebar in this building, it’s built out of brick, it would have fallen if we were bombed.”

Still, she shut her post down and went outside. She asked a sergeant with the recruits and he pointed to the World Trade Center.

“I looked up and the building was on fire,” she said. “The sergeant said, ‘Those poor people.’ I saw things flying from windows and I wanted to believe it was furniture, but it was people.”

Officers were pummeled with flying body parts, she said, adding that so many officers, including Cahill, still suffer from post-traumatic stress.

“I’ve been praying for her and all of those in 9/11,” Delores Purdie said Friday by phone.

Purdie was Cahill’s teacher in Brooklyn when she was 12 and the two have stayed in contact all these years. “They gave so much to others. Hazamoon made so many sacrifices for others.”

Right after the first attack, an NYPD officer handed Cahill a stack of face masks, telling her to hand them out to people, ordering her to wear one herself.

After handing out the last mask, she heard a loud crack and knew instantly what it was — the south tower had been hit.

“I knew I was going to die, the building started to pancake down on itself,” she said.

An Asian woman came running up to her desperate for help, she said.

“I gave her my mask and said, ‘Run, run,’ ” she said. “She put on her mask and ran toward the Brooklyn Bridge, the same bridge I ran as part of my exercise every day.”

After 9/11, Cahill never again ran over the Brooklyn Bridge.

As the second tower collapsed, a massive gray white cloud plume began rolling in huge tsunami-like waves through the streets.

“I saw the plume coming toward me. What saved me? Something, I don’t know what, picked me up by the collar and threw me into a single man checkpoint booth,” she said.

Both her feet were broken. She huddled in a ball inside the booth.

Still, after it settled, Cahill went back into One Police Plaza, giving the injured eyewashes.

But because she walked on her feet and didn’t get immediate help, they never healed right and she has had four surgeries to correct them and make walking less painful.

“9/11 left me with many ailments,” she said, talking about her asthma and other physical problems.

Perhaps the worst was in the days following the crashes, as she helped search for wallets, jewelry, bodies, anything that might help families identify those they loved and lost.

She begins telling the story of a woman and pauses, a deep inward look, a long pause, and then Cahill continues.

“There is one woman I want everyone to know about what happened to her. They had tied her arms behind her back with green wire and told her to get inside a black trash bag,” she said. “She was a stewardess, I can’t remember which flight. We found her arms on the roof of the building, still tied with the green wire. We never found her body. People don’t know about her, she needs to have her story told. Somebody should know about her, her voice should be heard.”

Cahill retired from the NYPD in 2004, started her own business — Hazamoons Creations — designing and sewing women’s clothing from vintage fabrics. She had a large shop in Luzerne, Pennsylvania, but a nasty divorce left Cahill and her son Patrick, who is autistic, alone with nothing. About a year ago, mother and son moved to the area to try and start a new life.

It’s been rough, Cahill admits, sharing details about their struggle financially and in fitting in. She still sees a therapist to try to deal with the Ground Zero images that never leave her.

“PTSD comes in many forms,” she said, talking about the lives of 9/11 and what they found in the rubble.

She pulls out the Monday, May 2, 2011 front page of the Wilkes Barre Times Leader: BIN LADEN DEAD.

“This was hanging in my shop,” she said.

The 19 Islamic terrorists responsible for 9/11 were allegedly funded by Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist organization.

Despite it all, Cahill believes in the positive, tries to still help others and hopes to reopen her shop here. A dress form sits in her kitchen with a new design made from an elegant Victorian tablecloth draped around its curves. She is a certified teaching assistant and substitute teaches at various BOCES locations.

“She’s the smartest student I ever had. She is very gifted and a giving, loving person,” Purdie said. “When you meet someone like Hazamoon, she’s one in a million.”