A little after 1 p.m. at the Islamic Center of Long Island Friday, Nancy Long nervously waited to finally meet the family she had set out to help a month ago.
Long, 29, of Hicksville, had been at home about a week after superstorm Sandy, eating breakfast and reading Newsday, when she saw an unforgettable image that propelled her to act.
In the photo, a distraught Aiden Guirl, 5, was bawling in his mother's arms -- his little face distorted by heaving sobs -- as the contents of what was once his "Toy Story"-themed room were loaded into the trash. In the background, flood-damaged toys spilled into the street.
"I almost choked on my Cheerios," Long said. "Just the expression on Aiden's face -- crying and crying. I couldn't get the picture out of my mind all day."
Long, a volunteer with the Islamic Center in Westbury, decided to help and reached out to Kelly Guirl, Aiden's mom, through a Newsday reporter. About a month after Long and Guirl started emailing each other, they met for the first time Friday, Long standing excitedly next to a table heaped with household goods, food and nontoxic cleaning supplies that she had gathered with the help of the Center.
Guirl, 28, and her husband, Grant, son Aiden and daughter Briana, 2, had been renting a home in Broad Channel, Queens, when 5 feet of bay water mixed with oil from their heating-oil tank filled their house. They lost almost everything; and even items untouched by floodwaters reeked of oil.
The outreach from neighbors and strangers such as Long has been more than she could have imagined, Guirl said. Along with a gamut of household goods, Long also bought Aiden all three "Toy Story" DVDs -- his were destroyed by the flood -- and got Briana a gift card to the Build-A-Bear Workshop.
As they loaded the goods into boxes to pack into her car, Guirl's mother, Debbie Silva, of Queens, said she's been amazed at the way New Yorkers coalesced in the face of Sandy. "People in New York call it as it is, but when they need to help, they're there," she said.
"It's been overwhelming, really," Guirl said.