One of the first photos we saw of Sandy's impact depicted a flooded street in Milford, Connecticut, where the boundary between sea and land had all but disappeared. We were just a few miles away, confined to our dorms, wondering what a group of students at Yale University could do to help with the certain devastation our neighbors would be facing in the coming days and months. Somebody suggested we could sell t-shirts and donate the profits to relief efforts, and someone else excitedly remembered a friend with some design skills who might be willing to create the logo. As our discussion unfolded, we coined the name "Shirts for Sandy," giving a concrete identity to our commitment.
The havoc of the storm became very tangible to us when several of us went out to Milford to assist with cleanup. Walking the sandswept, rubble-filled streets, we were astonished to see the sheer destruction: thousands of pounds of sand piled up in houses, garage doors completely severed, sheds torn apart, houses swept off of their foundations, fence posts standing bare in the yards. But most of all, we were astonished by the people who lived there: people who were cold, who had nowhere to go, who had no answers. The piles of surf-soaked trash grew higher as the people said, melancholy and reminiscent, "It all must go."
Those of us cleaning up discussed how anyone could ever truly recover from such a disaster. How does one grasp the fact that an entire life has been washed away with the waves and the dirt and the sand and the debris and the wind? It seemed that those whose homes were destroyed -- heirlooms buried in the mud like so many broken seashells -- had every right to despondency. Yet most were optimistic, looking forward rather than back, with hope and a willingness to do what it would take to get back on their feet. The remarkable strength of these people reaffirmed our desire to contribute as much as we can. Although we ourselves had been spared the brunt of the storm, we felt a shared responsibility to do what we could to rebuild.
The Shirts for Sandy logo "Stay Afloat" is a plea to those who have been affected by the storm not to give up hope and to stay strong in this tough time, while it is simultaneously an attempt to encourage solidarity among those of us who were spared the worst of it, with those in the path of devastation -- those with basic needs of shelter, of warmth, and those who have lost loved ones. It is our promise to do all that we can to provide comfort to them in their struggles and to keep them in our thoughts. We are donating 100 percent of the profits to Connecticut-based AmeriCares, an established disaster relief organization which promises to triple every dollar that we donate, thus substantially increasing our capability to provide relief to those affected by the storm.
Shirts for Sandy can be found online at www.shirtsforsandy.com, as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Shirts are available for $14 in all adult sizes. Additional donations are also greatly appreciated and will be sent to those in need during this trying time.