LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - USA Luge singles racer Joe Mortensen, also a sergeant in the Army National Guard and assigned to the World Class Athlete Program (WCAP), accepted the call to activation Tuesday to help fellow New Yorkers impacted by Superstorm Sandy.
Within 30 minutes of getting the call from WCAP to assist, the 24 year old from Huntington Station, N.Y. traveled from Lake Placid, where he was on the ice training earlier in the morning, to join his unit in Kingston, N.Y. From there, Mortensen was given evacuation assistance duties at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan.
"We helped move patients from the higher levels down to the ambulance so they could be transported to a different hospital," he said. With no power, the patients were carried down as many as 34 flights of stairs.
This occurred after he was able to assimilate what Sandy did to the world’s largest city.
"I don’t even know the word to describe the amount of damage that was done. You could see how high the water rose in certain areas. It was astonishing." The water level, together with power failures, leveled the city’s public transportation system. Also, with elevators knocked out of service, the sick and the elderly have been imperiled.
"All I wanted to do was get there as soon as possible," continued Mortensen. "I wanted to show that even as a member of WCAP, I’m a soldier at the same time. I want to give back as much as I can and show that I am available to help at times like this."
Mortensen was joined in the effort by fellow guardsmen Nick Cunningham, of Monterey, Calif., and Dallas Robinson, of Georgetown, Ky., both members of the United States Bobsled Team. Cunningham and Robinson were transferred to help in Queens.
The experience for Mortensen literally hit close to home - his home. Huntington Station in Suffolk County, just 35 miles east of Bellevue Hospital, was not spared any of the devastation of Sandy. It’s been estimated that 90 % of Long Island, of which Nassau County is a part, has no electricity.
"I could not visit my family," he continued. "I couldn’t call because cell service is out. But I’ve been made aware that they’re alright. No one’s injured."
In addition, he could not drive over a bridge to Long Island due to the high occupancy requirement of four in a vehicle.
Mortensen’s brother Matt, who won a national title in doubles last weekend with Preston Griffall on his sled, could not join the New York City relief effort. Matt and Griffall, both sergeants in the Army assigned to the WCAP, are currently en route to Sochi, Russia for a training camp on the 2014 Olympic track.
In addition to Army National Guard units, Joe Mortensen observed the Marines, Air Force, Navy, Air Guard and military police helping with the effort.
For the entire Joe Mortensen interview, please click here.