"Every disaster is different," said Hilt, 41, a Snohomish County Fire District 1 paramedic who helped with the New Orleans recovery in 2003.
Hilt was on the Washington-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team recently deployed to hard-hit Long Island to assist Oceanside's South Nassau Communities Hospital deal with the throng of patients.
The storm was a double whammy for hospital workers, he said. "Many of them were also survivors of 9/11."
He was impressed by their resiliency in the wake of Sandy.
"They had lost homes and had no power or didn't know the extent of the damage. Some workers were living in their cars in the parking lot," Hilt said.
"They were still working hard. It was people surviving, doing what they need to do. It was like my grandparents' generation: 'We are going to get 'er done and make it work.'"
Hilt stepped out of his usual emergency treatment mode as a paramedic to do basic urgent care tasks.
"If I sutured one person, I sutured 100," he said.
Unlike Katrina, the proliferation of cell phones added another dimension to the Sandy victims he met.
"This time, when people came into tents they brought the pictures as well as the stories. The stories were powerful enough, but with photos and a quick video you can identify with the people even more."
Like Katrina, there was an eerie silence in the storm's aftermath.
"At the Boardwalk, a usually bustling place, it was dead quiet. Like in urban New Orleans after the hurricane," he said.
He praised the Oceanside hospital's preparedness to deal with the disaster.
"They were as ready as you can be," he said.
He brought back tips to share with others in dealing with a disaster.
And something else.
"I brought home a cold," he said. "A common cold."
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org
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