One day when I was in eighth grade, my school district decided that all its students needed to know what to do in case of a hurricane, so we had a hurricane drill—in Colorado.
There were alarms blaring, students panicking, teachers trying to manage us, and the principle’s voice blaring over the intercom telling everyone to remain calm and get in the center of the room with the doors closed and windows covered, which, after a great deal of confusion, we all managed to do.
Despite the fact that there was no hurricane at all, and there probably wouldn’t ever be in Colorado, we worried. After about fifteen minutes of huddling together with nothing to do, we all became very frustrated. The whole exercise seemed rather pointless.
What motivated the district to train us for a hurricane in Colorado, I will never know, but last week when we were told that Hurricane Sandy was headed towards the East Coast, I remembered that darkened room and those agonizing fifteen minutes.
I wasn’t sure what might happen. Were alarms going to go off? Would Sandy Ungar’s voice come over an intercom telling us to remain calm? Would we all sit on the floor in the middle of the community room with the windows covered? Would Van Meter Highway flood and look like a river? Would time pass as slowly as those fifteen minutes in my eighth grade classroom?
I am relieved to say that no alarms went off, Sandy Ungar’s voice never boomed over the airwaves, and Van Meter Highway remained a safe passage through campus. While sitting on the floor in the community room isn’t that far off from what I actually experienced during Hurricane Sandy at Goucher, I am still shocked by what people beyond this campus experienced.
The media reported Sandy as the most destructive hurricane ever recorded. It caused about seven million power outages. The death toll exceeds 140 people; 40 in New York alone. Families had to be rescued by boats and by the military. Flood waters mixed with gas, and downed power lines dangled live near the flood waters.
Some people’s homes and everything they owned, including their pets in some cases, were washed out to sea or buried in sand. Even now, millions are still without power. Children are attending school in cold dark buildings. There are hours-long lines for people wanting to get gas or use mass transit. Losses exceed 50 billion dollars.
Goucher is heavily populated with people from the East Coast. Many students and faculty have been impacted by the disaster directly; many others have friends and family who have been affected. My friends have told me about the problems their families are facing—problems which, as a Coloradan, I cannot fathom. The hurricane drill did not prepare me.
I feel fortunate to have endured no more than a couple days of missed classes, especially when I think about the people whose lives have been greatly affected by the hurricane. I feel fortunate that we only lost a few trees on campus, especially when I think about the people whose homes have been destroyed. And when I think about my middle school hurricane drill and the agonizing fifteen minutes waiting for it to be over, I can only imagine what the people here who have suffered such losses are feeling, people who face weeks and months and maybe a lifetime of rebuilding.
But, if ever there were a people with the strength to endure it and come back stronger, I believe it is the people of the East Coast, the people whose heritage is rooted in the strength and struggle that came with the building of this country.