I am a teacher educator at Hofstra University in Hempstead, Long Island, one of the areas deeply affected by Hurricane Sandy. As students and alumni have access to the Internet they have been emailing me their stories. Some of them are pretty amazing and need to be read by a wider audience so here they are. I invite readers to attach their own stories.
In classes this week students in the teacher education program at Hofstra University discussed how teachers can help young people come to terms with what happened to their homes, schools, and communities. We came up with some important ideas so that young people see themselves as people who respond to crises and are not just victims.
1. Students need a place where they can discuss what happened and share their stories with adults they trust and their peers. Schools are that place.
2. Teachers should encourage students to write their own stories and interview family, friends, and neighbors.
3. Students can raise money and collect supplies for hurricane relief and rebuilding. As they become more aware they can also raise money for people in other parts of the world who experience natural disasters.
4. Classes can create a magazine telling the story of the class, school, and community.
5. Students can photograph the community and create a digital local history of Hurricane Sandy online on the class's website.
6. Students can create a museum exhibit combining scientific explanations, oral histories, and community history.
7. Students can become advocates for rebuilding, planned responses to future natural disasters, and for addressing problems such as climate change.
Hurricane Stories From Hofstra
Kristina Delaney, Hofstra student, Long Beach resident:
Long Beach is like a third world country right now. That's the only way I can describe it. We aren't expecting to have power for the better part of the month and the water is not safe to drink. They have begun search and rescue and have evacuated many residents and condemned many buildings. So far the death toll is at 10+. I have no access to the Internet or TV so I am not sure what they are reporting about Long Beach in the media. I am currently living at the firehouse where we have a generator and access to supplies from the National Guard, FEMA and U.S. army. It is going to be a long hard recovery for us here and it has barely gotten started. The biggest problem we are facing is a gasoline shortage and because it is so hard to come by even though my car is working I have not really been able to travel to see my family but from what I understand they are all doing well, even though they are without power. So to answer your question, yes I am doing well and Long Beach is still here. I have been keeping very busy with the recovery effort that helps. I have been running our medical triage where we assess patients and then dispatch them to ambulances or to buses to be transported to shelters. We also have a doctor working off of a trolley trying to see as many people as he can to get medication and vaccinations out to the people who need it. The outreach has been amazing. We have people from all over the country coming to volunteer their services to donate food supplies etc. I am wondering what they are doing about the public schools here? They got a lot of damage from what I understand and many students have been displaced from their homes. I will try to keep you updated and I hope to be able to get some gas from somewhere so I can make it back for class on Tuesday. As for our lesson package, I am going to do everything I can to get my lessons in to the group. I just don't know when I will have Internet access again. I know this might sound crazy but I'm sure teachers were somehow able to write lesson plans without the Internet once upon a time... so I will be working on that as soon as I am able. Are there any other assignments coming up that I can work on? My books made it through the storm!!
Bill Marinis, Verizon employee, parent, Hofstra student, Hicksville resident:
I'm still without electricity, so no heat or hot water. I managed to borrow a small generator but that isn't much help with the gas situation what it is right now. Surrounding areas are getting power back gradually in places such as East Meadow and Levittown. I am pretty sure however that LIPA is exaggerating how well they are doing. Several of my friends and coworkers had called in power outages only to be told there was no record of any report when calling for updates. I understand this is a massive undertaking, but we have just been told it will be another seven to 10 days more for many of us, and we were not in a flood zone. On a lighter side, we have been told by our politicians that the gas situation should improve so I'm sure it will some day. This has been a tremendous problem not only personally, but for my company as well. My company has announced an emergency, so it's mandatory seven days a week, minimum 12 hours a day for the foreseeable future. This only serves to remind me how old I'm getting as I go to bed tired every night, and wake up sore every morning. I'm afraid schoolwork is on the back burner for now as I find myself helping strangers all day and my family and myself at night. The emotional roller coaster ride goes on all day as I go from feeling sorry for my situation and the stress my family is feeling, to hearing stories about others like Kristina and those in Long Beach and elsewhere who have it so much worse. I have not been to Long Beach myself, but I've heard it's going to be an epic task to restore some sort of normalcy. It's sometimes hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, especially when it's almost a week later and some areas have still seen little or no improvement. My boss says I may be able to sneak away to go to class Tuesday, so I hope to see you then and talk further. It's amazing to see how people like Kristina, with all that she is enduring, can still find the time and strength to help others. Maybe the next generation isn't doomed after all.
Dora DePaolis, parent, student teacher, resident of Bellmore:
A huge tree fell and pulled the power lines down out of my neighbors' homes. The scariest thing is that my neighbor who lives across the street had literally just knocked on my door to ask if he could borrow my camping stove when the tree fell. If he had left just a few minutes later he certainly would have died. What's most alarming about the current situation is that my neighbors and I have had power since Wednesday -- so there's a bunch of live wires in the street and the electrical boxes attached to the telephone pole that fell generate a lot of heat. LIPA is literally paying someone to sit outside my house to warm people away. If we get a rainstorm I will be trapped in my house because the wires that were yanked out of one house are open at the end (vs. the wires that were pulled to the ground but are still insulated) -- so if they end up getting wet... All in all though, I know we were incredibly lucky. My home & car weren't badly damaged and my family is safe -- so I'm counting my blessings. My mom lives in Island Park on the water. Her home was flooded and sustained a lot of damage, but we're keeping our fingers crossed that her home can be salvaged. I have a friend in Long Beach who lost everything as her house was utterly destroyed.
Howard Fuchs, Long Beach teacher:
One thing that the media coverage is missing is the classism element of this disaster. While many higher income people stayed in Long Beach during the storm, after the storm they had options for where they could go to seek refuge. If you go into the community, you see who remained. This has a very Katrina like feel and it really shows the dirty secret of the generational poverty. The Long Beach school district is going to attempt to open up Wednesday as a K-12 building at Lindell Boulevard in the hopes of creating some normalcy. This is one of those times when school will hopefully be about feeding hungry kids, giving them a space where they can vent and be kids in the midst of this chaos.
Jose Ortiz, Hofstra student:
My neighborhood in Freeport is a tale of two stories. My side of town which is the south side of Freeport is a mixture of stranded boats crashed into houses and furniture crowding the streets. The village has only picked up garbage once in the last week and the garbage continues to pile up as people tear their flooded homes apart. Since Sunday my family and I have split up they are with my sister in Richmond hills, I however have been in four different houses in the last six days. My sister and brother-in-law lost their mattress every pair of shoes and jewelry they owned. Our oil tank along with the neighbors tank spilled which spread to the grass and drive way, the NYS DEC has come to control the oil spills but the smell has not gone. Our lights were set to be turned on today but my family and I waited until 6 p.m. to no avail as we found out each house must get inspected by an electrician before the power is restored. I have not been to work since Sunday but I am scheduled to return on Monday. With the current gas crisis I have not been able to fill up my car which is currently under half making my car the most reliable as my parents SUVs are both under a quarter of a tank.