Ever since Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, there's been a growing tendency for those affected by natural disasters to count on the federal government for emergency assistance. Such was the case in New York and New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy, which caused extensive damage, flooding and power outages. But sometimes the feds are the last ones to get there.

Ten days after the superstorm wreaked its havoc, Edwin Merrigan -- owner of a Firehouse Sub franchise in Manassas -- drove a refrigerated box truck through miles of downed power lines during last week's nor'easter and managed to reach several coastal towns in New Jersey before the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "The people had no power, no water, no sewer," Merrigan told The Washington Examiner. "They were eating out of dumpsters and using buckets as toilets. They had not received any outside assistance -- even from FEMA."

After being forced to sleep in the one-seat delivery truck -- all of the hotel rooms were occupied by out-of-state utility company workers -- Merrigan, his sister and her boyfriend delivered 13,900 sub sandwiches to National Guard troops, first responders and others in need. He told us that "3,200 subs were gone within an hour." When the trio showed up in with sandwiches to feed the elderly and families with children in one small New Jersey town, which had been without power for a week and a half, "the mayor cried," he recalled. They also handed out 500 "goodie bags" containing gloves, hand warmers and cookies to children whose homes had been damaged by the storm.

This mission of mercy was neither planned nor financed by the federal government. The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, which normally uses the money it raises to buy equipment for first responders, agreed to pay for 20,000 subs after Dan Lowe, the D.C.-Baltimore area representative, suggested that the funds be used to help Hurricane Sandy's victims. The donated subs were delivered by Merrigan and Annandale franchise owners Pam and Barry Pitkin.

They didn't do it alone. Merrigan says 60 to 70 people, including his employees, and their multigeneration family members and friends, worked 20-hour days to prepare the subs for delivery. "It was a group effort." And Northern Virginia's sub sandwich brigade reminds us once again why the world relies on the generosity of Americans when disaster strikes.