11/08/2011 09:38 am ET Updated Jan 08, 2012

Winter Comes Early

I remember looking at the TV in my dining commons and seeing something along the lines of: "Urgent Weather Alert, Huge Nor'easter to Strike New England." I turned to my friends and in my teenage cynicism, blew it off. But lo and behold, on that October evening, snow came tumbling down and it didn't stop. It lasted all throughout the night... and throughout that next morning, blanketing the ground with over eight inches of snow. Later that night I looked out the window and saw large flashes of light which I assumed were lightning. I later found out they were transformers blowing up. Apparently all the transformers on campus were damaged, leaving campus without any power. In hindsight, my laughter seemed in poor taste.

It was eerie, walking through the hallways of my dorm at 2 a.m. with absolutely no light save the flashlight app on my phone. Nonetheless, people took advantage of the snowy weather and, like children, started playing in the snow. It was an eerie sight, not being able to see two feet in front of you, but to hear the laughter of your friends building forts and throwing snowballs outside.

I soon realized my campus was in a little bubble. While power was restored in a day, the rest of Massachusetts was in a state of emergency. My friend came back from a nearby town and told me, "The second I got off that bus I knew something was wrong. It was surreal, no lights anywhere, no people on the streets... with windows broken as if people were looting." Many people in neighboring towns were left without power or heat. For on-campus students like me, this didn't affect us much. But for off-campus students, this meant over 3,000 students were without electricity for homework, heat, or food.

You may think that people would have gone into a panic; I know I certainly was afraid. But the surrounding community stuck together. I saw first-hand how my fellow students gave back to their university, letting friends without heat stay in their dorms, swiping friends without a warm meal into the dining common. Not only was this on a student level, but the whole community came together. Red Cross Shelters were immediately set up, offering aid to anyone who needed it.

This all happened in a day mind you. On the second day things started getting rough, with people realizing their power wasn't coming back on, students also realized that their food would spoil. My campus realized it had to do something. In this moment my University could have floundered and missed the opportunity to help many people. But it did not do this.
It stepped up and lent a helping hand to anyone who needed it.

Two days after the storm hit, an email was sent out saying that any student without electricity, heat, or food was welcome to charge their electronics in the campus center, library, etc., bathe in the many locker rooms around campus, and eat for free in any dining common.

I walked into the dining commons tonight to find it packed with people of every age. Whether it was the sophomore who just started living off campus or the graduate student with two mouths to feed, I ate next to people who not only shared the education provided by my school, but who shared its generosity as well.

Now, I know that many people who needed help (and who still need help) were not given aid but I can rest assured knowing that some thousands were helped DIRECTLY from the place where I hope to build my future from.

I can honestly say that my sense of community for my campus grew from these acts.

No football game, no pep rally, no speech can inspire such loyalty in me more than what I witnessed on these snowy October days.

I will end with a quote: "You can measure a community's character by the way it helps those who cannot help it."