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Waggy learned lesson in humanity following Sandy

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East Union High alum Cassie Waggy.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED January 13, 2013 11:50 p.m.

With the progression and mood of a funeral service viewing, Donald Labella led a clean-up crew through his New Jersey home, sifting through the destruction left behind by Hurricane Sandy.

A week after Sandy touched down, filling his Oceanport home with 5 ½ feet of water and sewage, Labella returned with a makeshift crew of 15 spearheaded by his grandniece Emily Bausher. Bausher, a softball player at Lehigh University, recruited three of her teammates, including former East Union star Cassie Waggy.

“It was very, very emotional,” Waggy said of the carnage produced by the October superstorm.

Sewage issues eliminated any chance of saving Labella’s prized possessions, but his memories were safe and secure. And the one affectionately known as “Bo” was happy to lead his guests down Memory Lane.

Labella had a story for every piece, and before it would be laid to rest with his other possessions along the curb, he’d share that story with his crew.

“More so than the couches and regular material things that you can buy, he really broke down when we had to pull out photo albums and yearbooks,” Waggy said. “Everything was so water damaged and sewer damaged that we couldn’t save it.

“That was what really hit home; looking at pages stuck together, trying to look at them one last time and then putting them on the side of the house.”

Each one of Labella’s pain-riddled accounts helped this group developed a story they won’t soon forget.

Waggy and three Lehigh teammates left the Bethlehem, Penn., campus in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and made the near two-hour drive to pitcher Emily Bausher’s hometown of New Egypt.

Lehigh closed its campus to the student body, and Waggy, a first team All-Patriot League honors as a freshman, returned to Bausher’s residence after an initial stay with the family the previous Thanksgiving break.

The group – Waggy, Bausher and teammates Emma Capetz and Brandi Hawkins, all sophomores – got an all-too-realistic view of the storm’s devastating damage on the ride into New Jersey.

“We drove over some bridges passing through the water and you could see the destruction of the house boats and to the beach houses,” Waggy said. “When we got inland we were told to wear shoes because they didn’t really know what was what.

“You didn’t know how bad it was going to be until you stepped out and just saw this disgusting, slosh of sewage.”

Assisting Labella wasn’t part of the group’s itinerary when they departed campus. They were prepared for life dependent upon a generator, but within days Bausher had nudged her teammates towards a task that will link the four for decades to come.

“It was just this feeling that one morning and Emily said that we should go help,” said Waggy, who spent the holiday break in Manteca. She returned to Lehigh over the weekend. “We didn’t have to think about it, everybody was ready to just go do it. I think that was one of the best feelings for me, it wasn’t like we had to pull each other’s arm to help, too.

“We knew that we weren’t going to do anything better and we needed to go help.”

So often on a mission motivated by the well-being and safety of another, the giver often becomes the recipient. The Division I softball players were able to experience a life lesson with the power to shape their adults lives. It certainly dwarfs the pains of a student athlete, juggling practices and conditioning with study halls and exams.

Waggy was a four-time all-Valley Oak League player during her at East Union. As a sophomore, she was named The Bulletin’s All-Area Co-Most Valuable Player.

Her success on the diamond continued through her first season at Lehigh, as she earned Patriot League Rookie of the Week honors twice and was one of only two freshmen to earn first team All-Patriot League honors. The right-handed designated hitter hit .354 in PL play.

Those are her memories and mementos; chapters in a story forever changed by Labella and the time she and her teammates spent sifting through his water-logged, wind-tossed home in New Jersey.

“All of the events that have happened recently kind of makes you appreciate going to a $60,000 college that my parents work hard to help me get through and all I have to do is wake up, go to class and play softball,” she said.

“It really puts it in perspective that people have it so much harder than I do. It kind of puts life in perspective.”

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