During the height of Sandy's wrath on Monday evening, Scotch Plains Police Officer, Joseph Citarella was making his usual patrol of the township when things turned dangerous after he assited a resident back inside her home.
As high winds and rain had already started to hit Scotch Plains, the officer received a call for a downed tree and power lines on Hoe Avenue.
Citarella made his way to the scene to tape off the dangerous areas surrounding the live wires and downed trees.
Citarella then went back to his vehicle to use it to block off residents from attempting to make their way onto the dangerous street.
While sitting in his vehicle, he saw a resident walking towards him. Presumably in hopes of asking him a question.
The officer immediately left his vehicle to bring the resident back inside, noting it was much too dangerous for her to be walking outside with the extreme winds circling them.
Citarella walked the Hoe Avenue resident back insider her home, but on his way back to the police vehicle, winds of Sandy began to pick up and the officer was struck off of his feet.
A large branch smacked Citarella in the back of the head and he fell to the ground. He was not sure what had struck him but felt pain in the back of his head, he thought it could have been a hit from a car.
While laying on the ground, he saw the large, thick branch next to him, his wife noting it was approximately 4 feet long and 4-6 inches thick.
He was able to contact to the department via his radio and an ambulance was sent to the scene to bring Citarella to the emergency room at Overlook Hospital.
Later that evening he was released from Overlook with a severe concussion. A cat scan was conducted at the hospital, but showed nothing so Citarella was released with medicine for his headaches.
Two days later, on Wednesday, Citarella was again rushed to the hospital from his home in Scotch Plains for dizziness, headaches and loss of vision. Citarella spent Wednesday into Thursday at Overlook for observation but was released to his home following his overnight stay.
Citarella's wife, Deborah, said Joseph is a hero and if he did not leave his vehicle, to assist the resident, it could have been she who was injured.
Since 2005, Officer Citarella has been a member of the Scotch Plains Police Department. In 2010, Citarella was recognized by the department for exceptional duty when he threataned by a resident with a large knife at Kramor Manor Park.
Citarella has four children, ages 13, 11,8 and 6. Deborah stated that the family is just blessed he is home and grateful that the situation is not worse.
According to Deborah Citarella, doctors are cautious and hopeful for a full recovery, but they are not 100 percent sure as of right now. Officer Citarella has said he is beginning to feel better.
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