Even over 800 miles away, the winds of Hurricane Sandy that smacked the East Coast last week have been felt on Wheaton’s campus.
Sandy primarily ransacked the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, leaving millions without power and causing extensive flooding throughout portions of the region.
Further complicating relief and recovery efforts was a winter storm on Wednesday, Nov. 7, that brought more rain, snow and renewed power outages to homes where electricity had just been restored.
The families of Wheaton students are among those millions who experienced the devastating force of the gale and are now working through its aftermath.
Sophomore Andrew Kuder from Wayne, N. J., said the most significant challenges his family has faced are the power outages and gas shortages.
“The biggest thing has been making do without electricity for that first week,” he said.
After the hurricane, Kuder’s parents waited in line for gas from two to five in the morning. Gas rationing laws implemented by Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey based on odd or even license plate numbers have relieved some of the original pressure of acquiring gas, although in some areas there are still shortages.
Kuder’s family and other families on his street were also evacuated due to an electrical fire caused by a tree that knocked over power lines in the storm.
“It wasn’t until the day after (the hurricane) when things hadn’t got back to normal ... where it was like, all right, this is serious,” Kuder said.
Being so far from home, seeing pictures of the shore also caused him to realize the impact.
“I started seeing pictures of the Jersey shore, places where I had hung out at all the time on the boardwalk … everyone posting pictures of their houses down the shore, and they’re covered in sand. Whole towns where you had grown up … were completely wiped out,” he said.
New Jersey was particularly hard-hit in these coastline regions. The boardwalks at Seaside Heights and Belmar splintered and were washed away by Sandy’s force.
New York City, Queens and Staten Island felt the greatest impact in the state.
Moody Analytics estimates that Hurricane Sandy will result in $30 billion in property damage.
Sandy’s death toll has been reported at more than 100 lives in the United States, with over 60 killed in the Caribbean before its move up the East Coast.
In the wake of the storm, psychology professor Jamie Aten, founder and co-director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI) at Wheaton College, the country’s first faith-based disaster research center, has engaged in several different ways to help those impacted by Sandy.
The organization developed a disaster, spiritual and emotional care tip sheet to provide clergy and church leaders basic information on disaster care.
They have also been in contact with different relief organizations responding to the crisis on the East Coast and hosted the Faithful Readiness Conference in collaboration with FEMA and the American Red Cross, at which they talked about how local churches can help respond to Hurricane Sandy.
Aten said, “I think the church is in a very unique position in being able to offer hope and meaning during a time when people so desperately need it.”
Aten explained ways Wheaton students can help those affected by the storm even a long distance away.
“One obvious way is to think about praying for their family and friends and also to think about ways that students could organize to be able to send some supplies or relief care there,” he said. “Other (ways) could be to look on campus or in our community about ministries or organizations that are responding and looking for ways that they might be able to help volunteer.”
A significant problem with the disaster recovery process is that “(people) tend to have a bit of a short attention span,” Aten said.
“When the disaster first hits, people tend to be very aware, especially if it’s something to the scale and size of what Hurricane Sandy was,” he said. “One of the things I’ve heard from churches again after Katrina, the Haiti earthquake and Japan after the tsunami and earthquake … was, ‘Please don’t forget us.’”
Aten encourages Christians to remember those affected after the initial impact until full recovery ensues.
Banner Courtesy: Bobby Plasencia; Photo Courtesy: Jim Greenhill
Printed in the November 9, 2012, issue of The Wheaton Record. Send comments to email@example.com.