Please listen to “Live with Laura” Radio episode – Sandy Remembered
Today marks the 1 year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. As I reflect on a year full of unforgettable memories and feelings, it is the memories of the people from up and down the coast of New Jersey and New York and all over the country and around the world I remember the most.
My first memory is of the day Sandy hit our coast. It was far worse than anyone could ever have predicted. No power, no phones, no cell phones yet I still had internet access. I remember getting a direct message on Facebook book from a family member who was working at one of the high school shelters letting me know their needs. There was no food, bedding or clothing available just cots.
I sent out a facebook post asking our community to rally and rally they did. Our community with no power and no open supermarkets took from their own closets and pantries to help our citizens in needs. This is where I learned we can count on each other, locals helping locals. A NJ women pilot flew a small plane up with supplies shortly afterwards with much needed supplies including generators. 20 school buses were loaded with supplies and dispersed to the local community pantries that are still operating 1 year later. Two weeks later school was in session again and our electricity and phones were operating again. This is what the New Jersey shore is made up of and not what is seen on TV. That isn’t who we are. We are nice people who will come to your aid if you are in need we will help. Opening our homes for those that needed to take a warm shower, have a hot meal or a place to rest; that is who we are.
Here is a recording after my husband had worked at our HS shelter. Many water rescues came with no shoes on their feet.
Our Sandy Caretakers “pink and blue boots” on the ground as I like to call them; folks from all over New Jersey and New York reporting in to give updates as to where the needs were in our communities. These folks were what our community is really made of. Men and women that want to help their community recover so they did something about it. They didn’t wait for the cavalry they just got down and got to work mucking and gutting out homes and businesses. I never thought I would see the day when many women and men are still, 1 year to the day, mucking and gutting out homes. These women and men are truly inspiring and are making a big difference in the lives of others.
As I was personally recovering from a debilitating illness so I knew I could not muck and gut out homes, however I knew that I could put my ‘pre-Sandy’ skill-sets encompassing business advising and marketing mentoring, to work. I also knew I had tools in my personal and professional toolbox that i used to help myself recover, that I was able to share with so many others. Many of these tools my Sandy survivors and Sandy caretakers tell me they still use today. I loved illuminating the talents of others so that they can shine their light and make a difference in this world. It was those moments that give me the most joy. Connecting a Sandy survivors with a Sandy caretakers still to this day gives me joy and is the best networking and resource sharing that can change someones life for the better.
Here is a Breathing and Visualization technique I recorded when we didn’t have power to help our community get out of “fight or flight” http://voicebo.com/UJXDjV
Recently I pulled out a sweatshirt and posters that students gave to me with all of their names and inspiring messages on it. It was on a low day and it really made me smile and remember the support that these students gave my community. It reminded me that there are people in this world that want to make a difference in the lives of others.
Two holidays went by without the Sandy Bill being passed in congress. This was also when social media was used to quickly organize a walk in both New Jersey and New York that allowed the media to “Walk a Mile in our Shoes” and see that things were not ok and how our area needed relief efforts. This walk was pivotal for helping get the Sandy bill passed. I learned first hand how long it takes after a bill is passed for money to reach the needs of the community…. WAY to LONG. I know it is hard to believe by 1 year later and many are still waiting for the funds and are dealing with many obstacles and challenges.
Christmas cards did not go out as it just didn’t feel right. My dear friend who I call Mrs. Clause organized a toy drive and collected over 100,000 toys and wished she had real elves to wrap all the gifts in one night. It was truly a Christmas miracle that all toys got wrapped and delivered to much needed families.
My other friend who I call Jesus Santa Clause and his wife Mrs. Clause who delivered so many gifts to many families that I knew personally. They were recently reunited with one family at a workshop I was teaching at. It warms my heart that so many people helped Santa clause came together during Christmas to make the Christmas special.
Then there is the memory of a phone call from the principal of a school in Philadelphia that wanted to come and help my community and needed my help in connecting the dots of what communities and projects needed their help. In one weeks time they covered many towns that were in desperate need of a helping hand and made a huge difference in the lives of so many including mine.
The memory of a Facebook message I received from a teacher that had done natural disaster recovery work himself and wanted to bring down his middle school and high school students to help with recovery work. He would inspire and teach them during this real world experience. They are a group I will never forget. Don’t ever underestimate these young people, they were some of the hardest working youth I have ever met and wise beyond their years. They made a difference in both our lower barrier island and our upper barrier island as well as in my community. They covered a lot of New Jersey areas in the week they were with us and traveled 2 hours a day to work as housing was hard to come work in my area during our coldest winter months. They truly were inspirational and transformed my community and my life for the better.
I had the pleasure of working with so many college students that gave up the sunny beaches of the Bahamas during their spring break for the ravaged beaches and towns here in New Jersey. These students from all over the country touched my life in ways that I can’t even truly articulate in words except to say that it was transformational. I learned from them and they learned from me. Special memories of two women that managed all of these college students from across the country as they gifted our state with their talents as they stepped away from their corporate jobs to put this month long project in order. They showed me that one person can make a huge difference and it keeps my faith alive that there are truly exceptional people in this world.
It was also the phone call from a friend of mine that told me our firehouse was still in distressed several months after Sandy ravaged our community that angered me. How could it be that a critical resource like our firehouse still not be in working order. I took that mad energy and turned it into positive action, action that brought my strong fire members to tears of joy that someone was coming to help assist them. The chief told me that just that week they were given an anonymous gift of drywall and all the supplies to get their firehouse rebuilt, but they didn’t have the man power to get it done. So when I informed them that we had both men and women power ….. and lots of college Youth power they were extremely joyful.
They were always GIVING to our community and now the community was GIVING to them. I told them to RECEIVE this gift as they truly need it to be able to keep giving back to the community.
Here is an recording giving a update of the firehouse renovation. They were amazed how fast we got the firehouse sheet rocked.
Corporate volunteers suprised me at the firehouse so I was able to dispatch them to a firefighters home that had been destroyed.
Meeting so many different grassroots organizations that made an impact on our recovery, I can’t name them all as there are just too many to of them. There were several organizations that came forward and did exceptional work that have been around for a long time.
These were so nice to see especially on days when organizations that were given millions of dollars in relief aid were failing miserably. I chose to remember both the positive and not so positive as they both provided experiences that served as teaching moments to learn and grow. To help others that have faced a challenge and help them with solutions, tools and ways to overcome those challenges. Just like the image I remembered in the spring where a lawn was replaced by “Sandy sand” and emerging were spring flowers through that sand, so are we here in New Jersey and New York emerging and going forward rebuilding, reviving and restoring.
My cousin lost her home in New York and one post on social media asking for cloths for her and her family was remarkable. My entire room was filled with clothes, toys, and coats. My cousin really felt loved by my community and knew she was not alone in her challenge.
My New Jersey peeps rallied for my cousin and many New Yorkers that needed help. With getting reports that her area was not getting any aid a box truck was driven up by our New Jersey peeps with food, clothing and supplies. It warms my heart that NJ and NY were working hand in hand for the needs of our shore communities.
A tractor trailer delivery from ohio from a young 24 year old man and his driver hauled 21,000 lbs of supplies that totaled over $100,000 that was donated by their community was truly remarkable. I still remember video taping an interview with him and when he opened up one particular box which has deodorant and hand sanitizer it brought me to tears and left me speechless.
These supplies were much needed and it was the basic human needs that our community needed. He also came back with his driver and his wife with easter baskets in the spring and visited us this summer at a wonderful Sandy tribute we did with local musicians during a wellness and music festival called Soulsational. We refer to a Sandy survivor as a Sandy Soulvivor which helps change the mindset from victim to survivor. We meet so many families and connected them to community resources that they didn’t know existed.
I have learned that large marketing dollars were used to promote our Shore is open for business which was needed. However I wished that a portion of those funds were used for public service announcements to tell homeowners and businesses of resources that were available to them.
Social Media connected me to so many people. A group from Mississippi who knew exactly what we were going through came up and met with our municipality leaders. They included a wonderful woman that was a reporter who reported about her own home town that was destroyed during Katrina and two mayors and a senator. I learned so much from them about resiliency and about paying it forward. They recalled how officials came to their towns after Katrina to teach them the tools that they knew after their areas in Florida were destroyed. I also met a Louisiana consultant that was helping make sense out of the FEMA grants that a municipality needed to get funds into their community. She has truly been a godsend to our community helping with funding to rebuild our communities infrastructure. Life long friendships were created during their visits and we are forever grateful for their compassion and gifts of knowledge they gave to our communities.
We now are in the fall season and have reached our 1 year mark since the largest nature disaster in US history. This marks a year of extreme challenges, remarkable and resilient people, transformational experiences and the knowledge that one person can make a difference in the lives of others. So as we pause to remember….. remember this: just like a pebble in a pond that sends out a ripple, your actions can truly make a difference. Smile at a stranger, perform random acts of kindness and pay it forward.
Live with Laura TV
Documenting this last year of Sandy recovery.
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