Despite Sandy, there’s much to be thankful for

By Kevin Russell, Sports Editor

December 5, 2012

As college students, we never think that the towns we grew up in will be affected or devastated by a natural disaster. However, for hundreds of us here at High Point University, this became an unfortunate reality this past October.

Just one week after many of us spent our long fall breaks at home up North, enjoying time with our families and high school friends, Hurricane Sandy turned our worlds upside down.

Many of us have shared with one another stories about what our families had to endure during the aftermath of the storm. Whether it was dealing with no power, waiting five hours for gas, or not having running water, every story is as heartbreaking as the next.

Being from a small suburban town in New Jersey, my family saw first-hand the devastation and chaos that Sandy caused.

My family resides in Westfield, N.J., which is approximately 25 miles from New York City and about 20 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. While my town did not see the same massive destruction as many towns just a few miles away, it still felt a strong wrath from the hurricane.

In the days following the storm, Westfield reported that 95 percent of residents did not have power, which meant that in a town of 36,000 people, more than 34,000 residents did not have heat and electricity. Along with the unprecedented blackout, more than 350 of the 450 roads in Westfield were deemed closed or impassable and 12 homes were condemned due to extensive damage.

My family was among the 95 percent of residents whom did not have power and were left in the dark for eight full days. While obviously not an ideal situation by any means, my family was extremely thankful just to be alive and to not have suffered any damage to our home.

“During the height of the storm we could hear trees falling as well as transformers exploding,” said my mother, Mary Russell, a 20-year resident of Westfield. “Once we got through the height of the storm and into daylight, it became utterly apparent how lucky we were just to be alive and have no extensive property damage.”

Once the storm passed and it became apparent that they would be without power for days and possibly weeks, my family immediately began trying to decide how to cope with the situation. It was at this point that the people in our small community all seemed to bond together and try to make the next few days and weeks bearable for all.

“We were very fortunate to know people who did not lose power as they invited us into their homes to work, stay warm and eat warm meals, as well as provide us with a sense of normalcy,” my mother also told me. “I don’t know how we would have coped after the storm without the generosity of these gracious families, and it was great to see that in a time of need, our small community was able to all come together as one,” she said.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I, like many other students here at HPU, went back to my hometown for the first time, and I’m sure I was not the only one to be shocked by what I saw. Three weeks following Sandy, many roads were still littered with debris, massive trees were still lying across lawns, traffic lights were still out of service and many roofs to homes were visibly damaged.

In the days following the storm, my parents had been describing the situation to me, and I had also seen pictures on TV and the Internet. But to see the destruction first-hand gave me a whole new perspective.

Seeing a friend’s house that I’ve been inside numerous times with a hole in the roof, along with a 50-foot tree down just a few feet from my house, really made me realize just how lucky I was to be able to come home to my family and a house with no damage.

Hurricane Sandy taught me, and I’m sure many others, to cherish the things and people we have in our lives. In a blink of an eye, they can all be washed way or destroyed.