Random House and the folks at Schwartz & Wade have once again emerged as the light in my life. Left without water and electricity in the East Village, I thought I would be cooped up in my sister’s apartment in the Upper West Side, but the Random House building is open and ready for business…mostly. Mail Services is limited and the cafeteria isn’t open, as many of the businesses in the area. But in this time of helplessness, the thought of having some occupation is a godsend.
Hurricane Sandy is all anyone can talk about. Some are in the same situation as me, living with a relative who has power and enough hot water for a shower. Others are less fortunate, stuck without electricity for some days.
I thought New York had been hit pretty badly. It had. I saw storefronts completely torn down by the winds of Sandy. I saw windows shattered and people completely displaced from their homes. Anywhere below 34th Street was without power. My dorm and my school were left in complete darkness. Even the emergency generators were down.
But my hometown and the surrounding areas in New Jersey really seemed to get the brunt of the storm. My grandmother’s house in Silverton is filled with water and sand, the deck completely torn away, gone forever. Toms River Schools are filled with people who have lost their homes and everything inside, who need clothes and food and water and heat. So many still don’t have electricity in their homes.
Seaside is gone. The beach where so many of us spent our weekends was completely swept away by the storm. Seeing the pictures of that rollercoaster ripped from its foundation and mangled into metal knots was something that shocked me more than anything I could have ever imagined.
Along with the devastation caused by the storm came the disrespect and lack of sympathy from our fellow human beings. In areas of Silverton, identification and proof of address must be shown to police officers, who have barricaded the selected areas because of looters. At a time like this, when we should all be banding together to help rebuild our state, our town, these barbarians have decided to be selfish, to worry only about themselves when there are others in need of help.
But the tragedy has also brought along some acts of great humanity. I’ve seen photos of people dragging extension cords to the fronts of their houses so passersby can charge their phones or their laptops. I’ve seen Facebook statuses welcoming neighbors and strangers alike into their homes. Everyone is raring to get up and help in one way or another, and it’s really amazing to see. It’s easy to be cynical about the place you grow up, to playfully make fun of it, draw on its faults, but deep down, I love Toms River. I love Seaside even when it’s full of orange-tanned tourists and traffic. I love my grandmother’s house with glass, sliding doors that open to the salty Barnegat Bay air and the pale blue and yellow color scheme that will always remind me of her.
Being away from it all is making me a little nutty to be honest. I want to go home and help and see everyone, make sure everyone is okay. I’m blessed to know that my family and friends are safe, but I want to help those strangers who love the same places as me, who grew up in the same place as me, but were a lot less lucky than I was during this storm.
Which, again, is why this Random House internship is such a blessing. Everyone here is looking to help one another out. One of the two publishers here at Schwartz & Wade even offered to stop by my place while biking here from Brooklyn to pick up anything I needed. These people are amazing. They give me hope that when we all band together, we can really help rebuild some of the neighborhoods that got hit hard, that we can truly fix this horrible situation that has the East Coast in utter turmoil.
If you are in the New York City area and want to volunteer, check out this article by Time Out New York. It has loads of information and links about how to volunteer in your area.
If you are in New Jersey, please follow the Jersey Shore Hurricane News page on Facebook, which continually posts updates on where volunteers are needed or where to bring donations.
As always, make sure you do research before you donate any money. It’s easy to post as a charity, so do your homework and make sure that the organization you choose to support is a real non-profit.