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Woman, 33, who drowned trying to save neighbors during New Jersey floods had just called her mom

A heroic New Jersey woman who drowned while trying to save her neighbors from flash floods last week made one last call to her mom as the floodwaters reached her neck. 

Shakia Garrett, 33, had been visiting her neighbors Jose Torres, 71, Rosa Espinal, 72, and their 38-year-old son, Jose, in the city of Elizabeth on Wednesday.

She returned home before remnants of Hurricane Ida slammed into the area on Wednesday.

But as the floodwaters began to rise, Shakia rushed back to their Oakwood Plaza apartment in an attempt to rescue the family. 

But mom Sharon told NJ.com how she got a desperate call from her daughter as flash flooding hit the city, and the apartment complex was overwhelmed.

In the brief phone call, Shakia said: ‘I can’t swim, Mommy.’ 

‘She was crying,’ said Sharon, who lives just three miles away. ‘We just couldn’t get to her.’

The four got trapped, and were among the 27 confirmed deaths in New Jersey.

Officials are still searching for four others who were swept away in the floods.

Shakia Garrett, 33, died in the floodwaters in New Jersey while trying to help rescue a family from her apartment building last Wednesday

The Oakwood Plaza Apartments were completely flooded in Tropical Depression Ida

The Oakwood Plaza Apartments were completely flooded in Tropical Depression Ida

A general view inside one of the apartments at Oakwood Plaza, where 600 families were displaced in the aftermath of the storm

A general view inside one of the apartments at Oakwood Plaza, where 600 families were displaced in the aftermath of the storm

The level of water reached is seen inside one of the apartments

The level of water reached is seen inside one of the apartments

One family left behind a picture as they were forced to evacuate from the home

One family left behind a picture as they were forced to evacuate from the home

Strong winds from the tropical depression piled cars on top of each other outside the apartment complex in Elizabeth, New Jersey

Strong winds from the tropical depression piled cars on top of each other outside the apartment complex in Elizabeth, New Jersey

According to NJ.com, Shakia was visiting with the family in their Elizabeth home prior to the storm rampaging through the state, but went home before the storm hit.

Later, though, she rushed back to the Torres’ Oakwood Plaza apartment as the water started to rise. 

‘As the water started getting crazier,’ she tried to get them out of there,’ family friend Salaam Ismiall, the director of the National United Youth Council Inc., told the outlet.

He noted that it did not take long for the water to reach more than a dozen feet, saying ‘it burst through the toilet and started gushing.’

‘I consider her a hero,’ he said of Shakia, whose mother described her as  ‘the sweetest girl who got along with everybody.

‘She had a very good heart,’ she said.

An emergency rescue raft was used to rescue some of the residents

An emergency rescue raft was used to rescue some of the residents

One of the residents is seen arguing with J. Christian Bollwage, right, the mayor of Elizabeth

One of the residents is seen arguing with J. Christian Bollwage, right, the mayor of Elizabeth

A woman was clearly devastated by the loss of her apartment

A woman was clearly devastated by the loss of her apartment

Following the announcement of her death last week, social media tributes started pouring in, with friends an family members asking for help to cover the cost of her funeral.

The Smith Funeral Home in Elizabeth is now ‘working with the family’ to reduce the cost, aiming to raise $10,000 for Shakia’s funeral. 

‘We want the community to come together and give her a decent burial,’ Ismiall said. ‘I hope people come through.’

As of Monday, a GoFundMe for her family raised $745. 

Smith is also asking the community to donate gift cards, clothes and other necessities for the 600 families who have been displaced from Oakwood.

She said she the response thus far ‘has been wonderful,’ with people donating diapers, wipes, toothbrushes and clothes to the families, and volunteers coming in to sort all of the supplies.

A GoFundMe set up for Shakia Garrett's family raised $745 as of Monday

A GoFundMe set up for Shakia Garrett’s family raised $745 as of Monday

Flowers are seen on a makeshift memorial at the door of one of the four dead victims

Flowers are seen on a makeshift memorial at the door of one of the four dead victims

Meanwhile, about 20 miles north, rescue workers are continuing to search for two childhood friends – Nidhi Rana, 18, and Ayush Rana, 21 – who were swept into a storm drain in Passaic during the intense flooding.

‘It’s such a challenge because there is no moving forward,’ Passaic Mayor Hector Lorna told CNN

‘It’s almost like grief in limbo,’ he said. ‘You don’t know what’s going on. You don’t know whether you’re grieving a loss or you are still concerned whether missing individuals an be fond – even though everything may say they won’t, you still hope for the best.’   

New Jersey has had the highest confirmed death rate of any state from the storm, which originally slammed into Louisiana on August 29 as a Category Four hurricane with 150 mph winds and torrential downpours.

It lost traction as it made its way to the northeast, but was still highly deadly. 

An aerial view of the extensive flooding in the Town of Bound Brook, New Jersey

An aerial view of the extensive flooding in the Town of Bound Brook, New Jersey

The city of Hoboken was completely flooded on September 2 - four days after the storm hit

The city of Hoboken was completely flooded on September 2 – four days after the storm hit

A man fell off his bike into a flooded street on September 2 in Hoboken

A man fell off his bike into a flooded street on September 2 in Hoboken

Road closure signs were put up across southwest Hoboken to warn residents not to drive in the heavily flooded areas

Road closure signs were put up across southwest Hoboken to warn residents not to drive in the heavily flooded areas

Cars parked in a garage in southwest Hoboken will suffer from extensive water damage

Cars parked in a garage in southwest Hoboken will suffer from extensive water damage

This handout satellite image released by Maxar Technologies shows Somerset Patriots' baseball stadium flooded in Bridgewater, New Jersey after record-breaking rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Ida slammed the area

This handout satellite image released by Maxar Technologies shows Somerset Patriots’ baseball stadium flooded in Bridgewater, New Jersey after record-breaking rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Ida slammed the area

More than one million people in the Bayou State and nearby Mississippi were left without power, shelter and food in its wake as it moved up the eastern seaboard and caused even more flooding and deaths.

At least eight tornadoes were reported in the northeast – four in Pennsylvania, three in New Jersey and one in southeastern Massachusetts.

The storm caused more than an estimated $50 million in damages in New York, which was hit by a rainfall equivalent to 50,000 Olympic-size swimming pools over the course of five hours, with 3.1 inches per hour recorded in Central Park on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

The governor, Kathy Hochul, signed paperwork on Sunday requesting federal funds be used to cover the costs of temporary housing as well as rebuilding homes. 

Meanwhile, more than 800 bridges across Pennsylvania will now require inspection due to storm damages, according to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Yassmin Gramian.

‘When necessary, we remain in disaster relief mode and we’re ensuring our teams have what they need,’ she said in a statement. 

‘As the waters recede, we will conduct post-flood road and bridge assessments and conduct bridge inspections when conditions warrant.’ 

Meanwhile in New York, a City Parks Security Service officer on horseback surveyed the damage at Central Park, which recorded 3.1 inches of rain per hour in the storm

Meanwhile in New York, a City Parks Security Service officer on horseback surveyed the damage at Central Park, which recorded 3.1 inches of rain per hour in the storm

A photo from the New York Police Department shows unprecedented flooding on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on Wednesday

A photo from the New York Police Department shows unprecedented flooding on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on Wednesday

Many of the deaths associated with the storm came from motorists trying to drive through the flooding. One driver is seen here trying to make his way through a flooded expressway in Brooklyn on September 2

Many of the deaths associated with the storm came from motorists trying to drive through the flooding. One driver is seen here trying to make his way through a flooded expressway in Brooklyn on September 2

The highway was completely flooded, with cars stalled on both sides of the road

The highway was completely flooded, with cars stalled on both sides of the road

A person leans on an abandoned car on the flooded Major Deegan Expressway following a night of extremely heavy rain from the remnants of Hurricane Ida last Thursday in the Bronx

A person leans on an abandoned car on the flooded Major Deegan Expressway following a night of extremely heavy rain from the remnants of Hurricane Ida last Thursday in the Bronx

As of Sunday, the death toll from the devastating storm rose to 51 people, with Louisiana reporting 13 deaths and New York reporting 17 – four of which were in suburban Westchester County and the rest of which were in New York City. 

Four other people died in Pennsylvania, one died in Maryland, another died in Virginia and in Connecticut a state police sergeant was swept away in his vehicle.

‘The human death toll was tremendous,’ said New York Governor Kathy Hochul in a news conference, recounting a trip she took to East Elmhurst, Queens.

‘One woman wept in my arms, an 89-year-old woman,’ she said. ‘She had nothing left after living in that home for over 40 years.’ 

Of the dozens killed in the northeast, many died in flooded homes or while overtaken by water inside or near their vehicles, CNN-affiliate Channel 3000 reports, with ten of New York City’s 13 victims found in illegally-converted basement or cellar apartments.

In a news conference on Friday, Mayor Bill De Blasio said he would consider being more aggressive in the future with pre-storm evacuations and orders to clear the streets and subways, as he acknowledged the majority of the deaths in the city were from people who lived in illegal basement apartments

In a news conference on Friday, Mayor Bill De Blasio said he would consider being more aggressive in the future with pre-storm evacuations and orders to clear the streets and subways, as he acknowledged the majority of the deaths in the city were from people who lived in illegal basement apartments

‘We know the basement apartments create a whole set of particular challenges,’ Mayor Bill De Blasio said in a news conference on Friday. ‘We are now going to be speaking – going forward- to people who live in basement apartments, specific messages, specific cell phone alerts, telling people about the vulnerabilities they face in these kinds of rain events.’ 

De Blasio, who is in his last term as mayor, said he would consider being more aggressive in the future with pre-storm evacuations and orders to clear streets and subways. 

He suggested creating a New York City taskforce to determine when and how to clear the streets and evacuate residents ahead of storms.

‘We’re going to have to be much more aggressive with these tools.’

President Joe Biden has signed an emergency declaration for New York and New Jersey in the wake of the storm, and is set to survey the area on Tuesday. 


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