Family volunteers in NJ after brush with Sandy

November 15, 2012 (HOMEWOOD, Ill.)

Eight hundred miles and half a month removed from their experience with Superstorm Sandy, John and Kara Schwaller are still amazed by what they experienced.

"It felt like you were in a sardine can. It was either going to fall in on you or it was going to get ripped off at any moment," said Kara Schwaller.

ABC7 first met the Schwallers in late October as they boarded up the family's home on the Jersey Shore. The storm was a few hours from arriving. They rode it out with 500 strangers in a Red Cross shelter.

"Scary at times, amazing at other times, because of the people we were about to touch and work with," said John Schwaller.

After two nights - including Halloween - spent in the shelter, the Schwallers returned to find their home in tact. But nearly 500 others in their neighborhood destroyed. They decided to return to the shelter, this time as volunteers. They worked for 10 days to help others who had lost everything.

"All around us there was damage. Block after block of devastation. We just felt we couldn't just sit here and glow in our good fortune while these people are suffering," said John Schwaller.

"After the whole chaos of the shelter was over I looked over at him and I said, 'John, are we still okay being here?' It's scary. You're taking some risks. You know there's a bigger storm coming. But I guess we'll go for it," said Kara Schwaller.

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