Rock Talk

College Spring Breakers Work on Rebuilding Instead of their Tans

Last updated on October 28, 2019 at 12:48 pm

The tradition of heading to the beach for spring break has taken on a different twist for many college students this year. Rather than heading to Cancun or Daytona, students from schools across New Jersey and across the country have journeyed to the Sandy-damaged beaches of NJ to make a difference.  I would like to say thank you.

While I do not live near the shore, like every resident of New Jersey, own memories of Hurricane Sandy remain vivid. As night fell on October 29, 2012, I sat huddled in the basement with my family.  Sometime in the middle of the night, my young children managed to fall asleep amidst the sounds of trees falling and winds howling.  My husband held my son in his arms, as I held my daughter. Watching their peaceful faces, I tried not to jump as another gust came through, followed by a loud crash that seemed to shake the entire house.

Daylight came and as the winds died down, I was overcome with relief and gratitude. We were all okay.  I headed upstairs, not certain of what to expect. I promised myself that whatever damage I saw, I would remain simply grateful.  Surprisingly, things looked the same… at first. Then we opened the front door. The street was littered with branches and shutters and shingles. To the left, several full trees had been uprooted, blocking the entrance to our neighborhood.  To the right, what seemed to be a large oak had fallen directly on top of our neighbor’s house, smashing through the second story bedroom and into the living room.  I drew in my breath, hoping that they too, had slept in the basement that night. And as I looked down the street, I saw that they were not the only house that had been severely damaged

It was just daybreak, and though the wind was still blowing dangerously, neighbors had begun emerging from their homes.  Slowly I learned that everyone was okay. But my prediction had been right; the world had changed.

Nearly 6 months later, as I look at the woods behind our house, it remains littered with fallen trees.  But deer run gracefully around or over the logs, and the path that leads to my son’s school has been cleared.  Construction continues for some of the homes on our street that were severely damaged, but for the most part the blue tarp covering open walls and roofs have been removed.

Today, stories of devastation and uncertainty are being replaced with stories of hope and recovery.  And as I read about the hundreds of college students who have traded in spring break in the beaches of Florida or Cancun, to volunteer in those areas most affected by the storm, I am reminded of what I hope will be the greatest legacy of Hurricane Sandy; compassion and a new definition of community.  I think that most of us who live in New Jersey are able to recall an act of kindness and generosity ignited by Sandy, do you? Plymouth Rock in NJ wants you to leave a comment out with a shout out to someone you know who made a difference in the aftermath of Sandy.

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