A Long Island native and former seminarian, Agoglia was running a profitable disaster cleanup business when in early 2007 he had an epiphany. "I'd sit on top of my crane," he says, "and think, 'What was it like for these people right when it happened?'"
On a whim he showed up in Greensburg, Kans., two days after a tornado. Clearing wreckage from a firehouse and recovering documents from a bank, Agoglia felt he'd discovered his life's work. Since then Agoglia—who watches the Weather Channel via satellite hookup in his truck—has plowed $450,000 into his new mission. Sometimes going 20 hours without sleep, the single 32-year-old has little time for outside interests these days. But he wouldn't have it any other way. "Reaching out to people," he says, "is what keeps me going."
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- Jeff Truesdell/Clarksville,
Where did Tad Agoglia spend his spring break? Let's see ... There was the flood in Norfork, Ark., the tornado in Ava, Mo., and a tornado-flood double whammy in Middletown, Ind. "I'm a nobody, but I'm trying to respond to all the major disasters," says Agoglia. With his nonprofit First Response Team of America (www.firstresponseteam.org), he has spent the last 13 months racing dump trucks, cranes and rescue boats to more than a dozen wind- and water-wracked towns. Along the way, Agoglia and his three- or four-man crew have supplied emergency power to an Ava nursing home; sandbagged against floodwaters in Burlington, Iowa; and ferried local officials around deluged Clarksville, Mo. "Tad's a godsend," says Greg Gaines of Missouri's Homeland Security Oversight Committee. Adds Crystal Shook, 41, of Middletown, Ind.: "All of a sudden—boom!—there he was. He made a big difference."