As federal coordinating officer for New Jersey's recovery from Hurricane Floyd, Pete Martinasco's 12-hour days are generally full of decision making, management tasks and high-tension meetings.
But Martinasco is a hands-on sort of guy. So this week he got away from the office and hit the muddy streets of Manville, NJ.
"I wanted to ensure that people are taken care of, and to see what's going on," he said.
He saw firsthand what the Raritan River had done to residents. He saw the mounds of ruined furniture and personal property, and knew that memories were imbedded in the mounds of ruin.
"Your heart really felt for those victims," he said. "It was really devastating for me, and I can't imagine how devastating it is for those people."
In one particularly poignant case, Martinasco met a newly retired couple who had recently redone their whole house and bought a new car - only to have Hurricane Floyd wreck their dreams of the future.
"They had three or four feet of water in their home. Everything was ruined - and they didn't have flood insurance," Martinasco said.
In another case, Martinasco listened as an elderly woman described being taken from her living room by boat. When Martinasco dropped by, she was cleaning up her damaged house, but had not yet filed for federal disaster aid because she didn't have a phone.
"I let her use my cell phone and we got her application done," he said.
Martinasco found the devastation in Manville especially difficult to view since many in the town did not have flood insurance. For them, Floyd's flood took away a lifetime of possessions. It doesn't have to be that way, Martinasco said.
"I looked it up and in this area it costs $500 a year to insure a dwelling and the things in it. That's pretty reasonable," he said. "If they had flood insurance they could rebuild and get back on their feet as quickly as possible."