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Alissa Scott
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer talks with the Healey family Wednesday in the midst of piles of rubble and debris leftover from Ethel Healey’s mobile home in Fort Plain. Ethel Healey was the lone fatality from last week’s flash floods.

Alissa Scott
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, center, spoke to the late Ethel Healey’s family Wednesday and also pushed the need to declare Fort Plain a disaster area.


Schumer tours Fort Plain

Thursday, July 04, 2013 - Updated: 12:10 AM


For the C-S-E

FORT PLAIN -- U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer stood in the rubble of what was Ethel Healey’s home with her family Wednesday afternoon, where all that’s left is a tattered American flag hanging from a wooden shed.

“I drove down Canal Street and looked at the damage,” Schumer told the family of the only fatality following Friday’s flood, “and yet [Fort Plain] is still flying its flag ... despite the damage, and it’s reminiscent of Mrs. Healey and this is what survived. She loved the flag, she wore the flag, she cherished the flag. And that is true of the people here.” 

Healey lived in a mobile home on Abbott Street, one of the first streets to become flooded after the Otsquago Creek overflowed early Friday morning. Officers had instructed Healey to evacuate her home, but after waters rose rapidly, she decided to stay indoors. 

Healey’s son, Michael, said his mother’s last moments echoed her true personality.

“[She] had an endearing compassion for everyone concerned,” Michael Healey said. “This was evident on early Friday morning when her neighbor, Jeremy, entered her house to get her out and she said to him, please go get your two children out first and your family and then come back to get me.”

In a news conference last week, police officials said they has spoken with witnesses who saw Healey’s mobile home slip off its foundation and into the creek. On Monday, village police announced they found her body within debris located next to Erie Canal Lock 14 in Canajoharie.

“In a matter of minutes, the water came so fast that Jeremy could not get back to mom and he had to flee with his family into the woods for his safety,” Michael Healey said. “She is always thinking of others and she is a true hero in our eyes.”

Michael Healey also referenced Ethel’s patriotic nature.

“All that you see left here is a small shed behind me with a storm-battered American flag hanging,” Michael Healey said. “She was a true patriotic American that loved her country dearly.”

Mike Sheeley, Healey’s grandson and Michael’s nephew, also spoke to recognize the first responders who helped discover the two things he said his family was asking for.

“They meticulously combed this massive, destructive area and within 48 hours found my grandmother’s lock box with all her important papers,” Sheeley said. “That was important to us on Sunday as we felt, all right, we got one of the two things we asked for.

“On Monday, 24 hours later, they found my grandmother’s body ... Their work and dedication to our family is to be commended and I want to extend our gratitude for this tremendous work. It needs to be known.”

Though Healey can now be laid to rest, the village of Fort Plain still needs a lot of reconstruction. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has requested that President Barack Obama declare parts of Montgomery County a disaster area so that they can receive additional federal assistance. Schumer also pushed for the declaration on Wednesday when he met with the Healey family.

“We will do everything we can to bring the needed federal aid to the people of Fort Plain,” Schumer said. “The state has asked for an emergency declaration and I am already on the phone with FEMA and the White House and it’s, given how bad the damage was here, it’s a virtual certainty that the president will give us that declaration.”

Next, representatives from FEMA will have to assess the damages. Schumer instructed all residents impacted by the flood to keep evidence of their expenditures -- receipts of purchases and photographs of damage -- so they can be reimbursed. 

He also explained the other types of aid residents will be entitled to.

“There’s aid for homeowners after your insurance, if you have insurance,” Schumer said. “They will cover an additional $31,900, all in grants, not in loans, and that will help people a great deal.” 

Schumer said the aid can also apply to car damage and other property lost, like furniture, boiler and water systems. 

There will also be aid given to local businesses.

“Not only in what they lost in terms of equipment, but also what’s called business loss, the amount of money that they won’t be able to get because they can’t stay open for a period of time,” Schumer said.

Schumer said the government will reimburse at least 90 percent, but as much as 100 percent, of costs incurred. He said he thinks they can achieve 100 percent reimbursement for overtime costs, repair to the roads and sewage plants and everything else damaged in the flood.

In the past, Schumer said FEMA has been slow in getting checks to residents, but “they have gotten better.” He said it should take much less than three to four months, which was previously the waiting period.

“I was here seven years ago, just down the road in Canajoharie when the floods were there,” Schumer said. “FEMA was pretty slow then, to be honest with you. I think they’re a lot better now. We’ve lit a fire under them after Irene and Lee which also affected this area.”

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara said they hope to reduce the time, but a time period can’t be pinpointed.

“The main thing is the uncertainty,” Santabarbara said. “People don’t know what’s gong on and we’re trying to get the information and we just don’t have it. I think the response time has gotten a lot better than it has in the past, so this will be a good test to see if it actually has gotten better.”

Santabarbara said for those who want to volunteer, basic necessities and manpower are requested. The Red Cross has closed the shelter at Harry Hoag Elementary School and all families in need of a home have been placed.

Schumer said he pledged to do whatever it takes to get Fort Plain the funding it needs to pull through.

“To the people of Fort Plain, through the Healey family, we have your back and we’ll be there for you,” Schumer said. 

“Our family can now have the closure that we and many others pray for amidst this tragedy,” Michael Healey said. “We love and miss our mother and may she rest in peace.”


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