A beach home destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in Charlestown Breachway, RI. Photo courtesy of Erin Diaz

Erin Diaz

There’s a sense of feeling useless when a disaster hits, explained Rhode Island real estate agent Erin Diaz.

Like many, she was horrified by the impact of Hurricane Sandy, which touched down along the East Coast earlier this week. Surrounded by damage in her home state as well as watching the destruction in hard-hit New Jersey and New York, Diaz said she felt like she wanted to do something to help but wasn’t quite sure what.

These thoughts were running through her head Friday when she received a phone call while working in her real estate office.

“I don’t even know this guy, and he calls — his voice is cracking, you can tell he’s upset — and he asks me to go check on his home,” Diaz said.

The caller was several hours away with his wife, who had been ill, and unable to drive to check on his home.

“He had called three other [real estate] agencies who were not able to help him, and he found me on Zillow and wanted me to check,” Diaz said. “I’d just been waiting to help someone, so I drove over to his house.”

Expecting the worst, Diaz made the half-hour drive along the coast — where parts of the Narragansett seawall had crumbled, washing away local businesses and homes — all the while crossing her fingers that when she called the owner back, she would have good news.

Sand covers the road in Charlestown Breachway, RI. Photo courtesy of Erin Diaz

As she drove, she received a call from someone else, whose brother owned a condo in the area and was out of the country. Again, she agreed to check on the home.

Fortunately, Diaz said, both homes were just fine.

“I was so relieved to be able to make those calls and offer good news that their homes were safe and untouched,” she said. “It’s just been shocking — the destruction. It’s something I never want to see again.

“It’s so devastating, and you feel so useless and helpless and you want do something for someone. It was awesome to help them.”

About the Author

Erika Riggs, the Zillow Digs manager, covers home design and trends.

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