Jonathan Singer: Carson native in the path of Hurricane Sandy
November 6, 2012
As a Carson City native and 2009 graduate of Carson High School, and currently a senior at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, I have a first hand perspective on Hurricane Sandy that I would like to share with my hometown.Four years in New York with frequent visits to family in New Jersey has given me an appreciation for a commuter culture that routinely requires an hour or more each way to work by bus, subway, car and/or train.The effect of the storm on public transportation, let alone the travesty of closed bridges and tunnels, flooded streets, and lack of gasoline that makes driving at best frantic and at worst impossible, will last for weeks, or in the hardest hit areas, even months or more.Roads that are not rivers of seawater look like parking lots, and gas lines are literally hours long, with stations running dry before even half the cars get to the pump. And then, of course, returning home to no electricity, no heat and no hot water adds to the stress and discomfort. When the storm hit, I was in my dorm at Adelphi University, where I work as a resident assistant, responsible for 150 students. We had to ensure access to food and water, and that the students were safe and stayed safe, meaning to no one was allowed to leave the dorm. Keeping 150 college-age students indoors and cooperative meant that we had to find creative ways to entertain them with limited resources. We lost power immediately and for most of the next week there was no electricity, no heat and no hot water, which also meant no laundry and at best cold showers. In advance, we had purchased flashlights and lanterns, and as a resident assistant I had access to handheld radios to police and school public safety officials, so we were able to stay connected and get updates. The cell phone towers were down and land lines were unreliable or not functioning for much of that week. After my last RA shift, I decided to drive to New Jersey to check on some elderly relatives and help with the efforts in some of the hardest hit areas. As I left Garden City, I saw many fallen trees that were hundreds of years old: some into houses, power lines and businesses. One tree came out of the ground and the gas pipe underneath blew up, which leveled a nearby house. The drive was fraught with adventure and many of the roads and highways to relatives were closed, so I was not able to assist them. There were many in New Jersey who were stranded due to flooding, and I was most concerned about my 82-year-old aunt who had lost power, telephone and Internet, and all of her refrigerator and freezer food was ruined.Driving through Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, I saw hundreds of houses underwater. When I arrived in Monmouth County, N.J., (15 -20 minutes from the Jersey shore), I stopped at the first response center, where people from the age of 3 to the mid-90s were sheltered. Some had left their homes because they were without power and others were there because they had lost everything. The shelter was half the size of the gym at the Carson City Community Center, and there was a line of 100 people waiting to use the bathroom and take a warm shower.I was offered an assignment, which I gladly accepted, to go to homes of the elderly in the area, to ensure they were alive and had basic necessities. Most needed help so I provided them with water, peanut butter, bread, flash lights and batteries. I also told them about the first response center and took a few people there, and whenever possible offered whatever assistance they needed. After waiting in line two hours to fill up an elderly man’s car with gas, I reached the pump only to be told there was no more gas. The gas station had become a zone of desperation: tempers were flaring. Throughout the region people were tired, cold and totally depressed; and to add to the trauma and suffering, the shelter was now full so there was no place for many to go.The next day I was assigned to talk with the elderly who had either lost their homes or who were having trouble dealing with the hardships brought on by the hurricane. One woman, in her late 80s, said the only thing she really needed was a hug. During the four days that I volunteered, my eyes became open to what real problems look like. A problem is not a girl who does not like you or not having enough money to go to the movies; those are more like inconveniences. The tragedies, hardships and ordeals that I witnessed put life into perspective for me, a 21-year-old man. I have had surgeries, gone through some of life’s difficulties, been disappointed, and mourned losses, but nothing that I have experienced can compare to the massive tragedies wrought by this hurricane: losses of life and maybe tens of thousands or more with nothing but the clothes on their back. Pictures, keep sakes, and treasures of memories that cannot be replaced are lost forever.I am writing this six days after the storm, while waiting in a gas line on my way back to Adelphi University after volunteering in New Jersey. School will reopen after a long week of closure. My parents told me that the school emergency system calls them regularly to say that all students on campus are safe. There are many millions affected and even at this time more than two million still do not have power, heat or a warm shower, but services will be restored to them soon. However, think about the thousands of people whose houses floated into the ocean or burned down or are in pieces; homes will have to be rebuilt but unfortunately for many not all insurance covers this type of destruction. Experts are saying that the overall cost of all losses may be $50 billion, but the images engraved in the minds of people, and personal losses, far exceed any monetary amount. I witnessed every minute of this horrific storm. At this moment, there is grieving, gas lines are long, people are cold, and some have lost everything, but we will recover from this because in times of hardship Americans come together.I have been working side by side with thousands of volunteers who have had little sleep and have traveled from as far as California, Florida and Alabama. Volunteers and first responders are putting the region back together one hand at a time. The strength that I have seen in Americans as they come together to comfort and aid others is an inspiration. Personally, it was comforting that my hometown was there with me throughout the ordeal. I want to take this opportunity to thank the many from Carson City for the text messages, calls and emails that I was able to receive, albeit sporadically, giving support to me during this insidious disaster. • Jonathan Singer will graduate from Adelphi University in May with a dual major in psychology and criminal justice, and will begin a clinical Ph.D. program with an emphasis in geropsychology in the fall 2013. His parents, Saul and Barbara Singer, live in Carson City.