While most students were sleeping on the night of Hurricane Sandy, I was in my room watching the live news for New Jersey. My family was telling me that my house was not hit; yet I could see my town on the local WPXI News. My town is not a large one; it is roughly one square mile, so seeing it on the news was unsettling. I had a feeling in my gut that my home was hit hard. Unfortunately, I was right.I watched all throughout the day, and missed all of my classes for the day. At some point, I decided to make the long journey to my hometown. I bulked up on bleach, water, food, gas masks, and cardboard boxes, knowing that I would need them. I emailed all of my teachers, and left on Saturday night at 11:30. I only stopped twice on the ride towards home to give my eyes a break. On the long eight-hour journey home I listened to the radio. I listened to Fun.’s “Some Nights,” no less than 30 times. I followed the emergency power line trucks home. It was almost symbolic, like a sign of the impending disaster that I would eventually see.
As soon as I reached the Delaware Water Gap Bridge, the sun was rising, and “Home” by Philip Philips started playing. Listening to the music, the tears started to flow. I was sobbing so hard that I had to pull over. Everything was surreal; I was disconnected from it all. I could not believe that this could have happened and pulled up behind my Mum’s car. She must have just arrived because she still was in her car. She looked surprised and started crying. I knew at that time that I needed to be strong for her. She showed me the house. Part of the first floor had flooded, and our basement had filled to the ceiling with water. This was not my home anymore; this was just a sad, ruined house.
A lot of our cherished belongings were ruined and had to be thrown away. All of my memories seemed to be going out with the trash. Our house had to be completely rewired and had to be re-plumbed. We were out of our house until mid-March. My animals–two cats and a dog– were out of the house and in foster homes until this summer. We had to give our dog a new home because we could not take care of him anymore. The storm had taken so much from my family and I that it was hard to see how damaged our town had become. There was over $367 million dollars of damage done to my small town.
The holiday season had been horrendous. On Christmas we slept in sleeping bags by a donated Christmas tree with no lights, and no ornaments. It was the best Christmas to date. Everything was centered around the family; not on gifts. What little gifts I got had been practical. Clothing and soap had been primarily what I had got, and I loved it. I was just happy to be in my home for two days.
Watching a disaster on TV does not prepare you for the true magnitude of devastation. No one knows what it is like unless they have been through it themselves. I have experienced so much these past few months that my brain is on overload. I become stressed easily, and I have become prone to panic attacks. I had a panic attack over a can opener that I knew I had before the storm that had never been re- placed. Panic attacks have become more common for me.
Most of the time I get them from seeing or using something that I use to own pre storm, or I will get one if something reminds me of my old home. I get worked up about the past, and I have trouble looking toward the future. School has become almost impossible for me.
I can’t focus, and my mind had become preoccupied with being home and helping my mum salvage our home. I had entertained getting an Emotional Support Animal (ESA), emotional support animal; however when I asked about them I found out that no requests for an ESA had ever been accepted at Seton Hill. Private schools like Seton Hill do not have to accept ESAs like public schools do.
It’s embarrassing and hard to admit that my mind is stuck in standstill. I keep on thinking that I will come home and things will be the same, yet they will never be. Change is hard; I don’t think it will ever become easier to accept. My home is still not whole; we still have a lot to do. We have ceilings that need to be replaced and floors that need to be done. We are not the only ones who still need help; there are many more who need help healing the wounds the storm has caused.
I would like to take the time to personally thank the people that have helped me thus far at Seton Hill. Robert Zullo and his dog Bella. Professor Zullo was the only one to contact me, and many other NJ and NY students that may have been hit by Hurricane Sandy at Seton Hill. Doctor Zullo welcomed others and myself into his home for a home cooked meal. He offered a home family atmosphere when there was none that I could count on. He also brought in his dog Bella, which helped more than anyone would imagine.
Becca, Kathy, Cynthia and Sheron from Aramark. These ladies provided a Thanksgiving dinner at Seton Hill, which had been similar to mine at home. With out them I would not have had a Thanksgiving dinner. A simple gesture or decision like this made my Thanksgiving. Thank you for doing what you always do. Becca, Thank you for understanding, and granting me the time off I needed.
I would like to thank everyone who donated to Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts. I would also like to thank my friends who have been there for me through thick and thin.