April 22, 2010
It’s hard to believe that a volcanic eruption hundreds of miles from New York City would require emergency response in our local community, but in this ever-shrinking world such a situation became a reality this week. The effects of the volcanic ash plume above Iceland that grounded flights around the world trickled down into John F. Kennedy Airport early last week. Fr. Chris Piasta, Chaplain of Our Lady of the Skies Chapel at JFK Airport estimated that there were upwards of 1200 passengers stranded in Terminal 4 until flights began to leave on April 20. These stranded passengers lacked proper places to sleep, access to showers, food and medical supplies, but through the generosity of many, including the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn, stranded travelers at “Camp Kennedy” have lived in some comfort while waiting to return home.
According to Fr. Piasta, Catholic Charities of New York in association with the Diocese of Brooklyn provided “substantial and significant help…when the one thing you are facing is unpredictability.” Until April 20, Fr. Piasta and the aid workers at JFK Airport had no idea when the stranded travelers would be able to return home, and even then they faced the possibility that the number could multiply by the hundreds as passengers with connecting flights to Europe began to arrive in New York. The $7000 grant from Catholic Charities New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn helped feed approx. 200 people this morning, and will help offset the overall costs for the Chapel at JFK Airport, which dug into its scarce resources to help the stranded. Fr. Piasta hopes that he will say goodbye to the last 30-40 travelers at “Camp Kennedy” tonight and tomorrow morning as they finally make their way home.
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