The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Observations From a Hurricane Santina Muha

I am a born and raised Jersey girl, living minutes from the boardwalks and beaches that were destroyed earlier this week in Hurricane Sandy’s wrath. I was fortunate enough to make it out of this storm with minimal damage to my home, but I am surrounded by destruction and despair, and have found out first hand that a disaster brings out the very best in people. And guess what? It also brings out the very worst. Never in my life have I witnessed a clearer divide.

The amount of volunteerism I have seen since the day after the storm has been incredible. The morning after the hurricane, I ventured out of my home and saw some of the aftermath of the storm in my neighborhood – uprooted trees blocking roads and crushing cars and homes, boats floating in my cross street from the nearby marina, and an almost total blackout, just to name a few. I was able to make it to a nearby diner running on a generator and witnessed something amazing. Reminiscent of some of my favorite family sitcoms, neighbors were gathering together, talking about how we’re all going to get through this, together. From there I went home and gathered some clothes, toiletries, and food to bring to my high school, which was already being used to shelter people who could not yet (or ever) return to their homes. That first day was sad, but it was also extremely heartwarming. There were so many people, some who had suffered great losses themselves, helping each other in so many ways. I was happy to see such good in people.

As the days went on, I realized that while this disaster may have given some a chance to let their goodness shine, it also brought out some monsters. By the second and third days post-storm, the looters started creeping. With lights out, alarm systems down, homes exposed and chaos ensuing, the lowest of the low started using this opportunity to steal from victims’ homes while they were taking refuge or out helping others. As I sit here writing this, there are policemen stationed at the end of my street checking IDs to keep these looters out.

Then there’s the gas issue. For some reason, I super prepared for this storm and filled up my gas tank the night before. This is something I will be doing from now on, because with the power out everywhere, open gas stations are few and far between, and the lines to get gas are hours long. This was causing desperation, and there were reports of people fist fighting and carrying guns while attempting to fuel up. Policemen are being put at gas stations to help with this problem. As the power is being restored and safety precautions are being taken, this problem seems to be fading, however it is scary to see what measures people will take when faced with emergency situations. In certain areas, the lines to get gas are still hours long.

By Friday, my mother got her power back and I was able to go there for a hot dinner and to watch The American Red Cross and NBCUniversal’s benefit telethon. Again, some faith was restored as I saw how quickly it was put together and listened to messages of inspiration from Staten Island native Christina Aguilera, Jersey boys Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen, Long Island native Billy Joel, and others. I am hoping that this benefit, along with the several other charities I see coming together, are aiding those out there that still need so much help.

I have also, unfortunately, been a little saddened by those friends I have across the country who have yet to check in on me. As accessible as social media is these days, and with as much media attention as this storm received, there are a few people out there who I thought would have sent me a quick, “U OK?” I will not hold a grudge against them, but I have learned for the future to always reach out to friends when I hear of a disaster in their area. To know someone is thinking about you and cares can help, even just a little. (And a shout out to those who did make me feel loved by texting or calling or facebooking XOX).

From strangers offering each other places to shower and charge cell phones to strangers fighting arguing over the last quart of milk and batteries in the store, I have seen the good, the bad and the disgusting this week.

It is a week since Hurricane Sandy hit, and we on the east coast have a long road to recovery. I hope as the weeks and months go on, the good in humanity outweighs the bad. This was a huge learning and growing experience for me. Even though I was supposed to be out of state, part of me is happy my plans were postponed and I was in my hometown to go through it. I have always been one to donate and be saddened by natural disasters, but when it hits your home, it really hits home.

*If you want to help, click here, or simply text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.*

Images via: wall321.com, trust.org, ibtimes.com, eonline.com, newscenter.berkeley.edu

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  1. Even though we didn’t have it as bad as you, I too saw people helping people cut down trees laying accross their yards and such. Only witnessed one monster verbally outlashing at the UI safety workers as they stood at a down pole a couple of streets down. But the guy was nice binging them coffee and letting them use the bathroom for 2 days straight for 24hours as they waited for a crew from NY to come fix the pole. Systematic. 5 different trucks all come together. One crew digs another removes the broken pole then the dig crew comes back and digs a fresh hole for the new pole, then the pole people set the pole then the dig people put the dirt back in, then the linemen come and disconnect and reconnect/run new cable, then if the light is no good you have to have a crew for that. Was very surprised to see how many people were back on the grid, the number growing by the 10s of thousands each day. Problem is they can fix your line right away, but if your feed is down down the road or if your substation is completely destroyed you ain’t getting nothing. Here in CT they both (UI/CLP) moved quick restoring grid after grid. So now it’s just the matter of restoring “pockets” of people. I had my power back by 7pm sun nov 5th, my neighbor had his by wed. They had to finish his line to get him power. I do feel bad for you folks that might not get anyting till Thanksgiving with all the devistation. Amazing to see how now once beachfront homes, are now right along the water. Fairfield beach was one of the hardest hit areas, and from listening to the national gaurd, people i know on fb are frustrated, that they can’t get out there to help the survivors due to the looting around there that only residents and approved contractors are allowed in for now. Trying to explain that to one of the organizers I think I started an argument! LOL. Some people just don’t understand… And as for people that never check in with you San, I wouldn’t worry too much about them, cuz now you ‘ve found out who your real friends are when you need them in a pinch! As I’ve found out. I would have checked in sooner, but no power no net! Time for freedompop! But I checked in. So true Maureen, you will come back stronger form this and it has made some people stronger and some people weaker. Best to you all for a quick recovery form this storm

  2. So true, people do come together and put all things aside to help one another, I also live at the shore and was very lucky, but to see so many less fortunate is heart breaking. This has changed the Jersey Shore…. but we are Jersey Strong and we will get through this TOGEThER!

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