Custodian Ran Pumps Overnight to Save School from Flooding: ‘I Make Sure My Job Is Done’

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 02: Water is pumped out of the basement of a home on Clifford Street on September 02, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency due to Tropical Storm Ida which caused flooding and power outages throughout New Jersey as …
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Following the damage caused by remnants of Hurricane Ida in New Jersey, Hackensack Middle School Principal Anibal Galiana was concerned about his school building.

He contacted head custodian Peter Hemans to let him know he was going to make his way to the building and look over the damage, reported Thursday.

But Hemans already had the situation under control because he stayed overnight to protect the school from the floodwaters.

“I told him that I’m not sure if I could get there since all the streets were closed, but I’d like to check on the building,” Galiana recalled. “He said ‘Dr. Galiana, I’m still here; I never left.’ I said, ‘What?!’”

Even though Galiana was initially taken aback regarding Hemans’ effort to protect the building, upon further reflection he was not completely surprised.

“He’s been an asset to the building since he’s arrived,” Galiana noted. “He’s a hard worker and he’s a great example for the other custodians, too. He said he slept there to make sure the building didn’t flood since school starts next week and the kids need a building to come to.”

In a Facebook post, the school applauded Hemans, writing, “We are ready for our scholars because of his amazing dedication”:

Meet Mr. Peter Hemans, head custodian at HMS. On Wed night during #HurricaneIda he stayed at school ALL NIGHT LONG, to…

Posted by Hackensack Middle School on Friday, September 3, 2021

At approximately 11:00 p.m. on September 1, a sensor tripped in the school’s basement because of water creeping inside.

Hemans was already at home but knew he had to get back to the building. However, traveling there from his residence in Clifton, New Jersey, was not easy because he was blocked from several routes due to the rising water.

Once he reached his destination, he found the sump pump pumping water out of the basement onto the street.

However, the water continued rushing back into the room because the street was completely underwater. Therefore, the custodian redirected a hose to push the water onto some asphalt.

Hemans checked on the pump every half hour and the pump ran all night, but if it had failed at any moment, water would have come back inside with disastrous results.


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