“It is unsettling to walk down the streets and think that just three short years ago the roads, the stores, the houses, were all underwater.” ASB ’16 Day 2: Jordan Little, Natalie Holguin, Seneca Forch, & Emily Fullhardt
Jordan Little, English & Literature, Women’s and Gender Studies ’17
Before the beginning of ASB 2016, I hadn’t had the opportunity to see the effects of Hurricane Sandy on the Rockaway community. I was living in Costa Rica at the time of the storm, and while we experience earthquakes and volcanic eruptions frequently, hurricanes are not at all typical there. Prior to this trip, I could not have even fathomed the destruction a hurricane can wreak on a city or town. It is unsettling to walk down the streets and think that just three short years ago the roads, the stores, the houses, were all underwater.
The house we are working on looks as though it will soon be up on its feet. It belongs to a man named Cecil who has been living with his sister since the destruction of his home. It was our first day onsite so we haven’t gotten to see the house grow or change quite yet, but I look forward to seeing how it looks at the end of our trip. We spent most of today mudding and sanding the walls, a process that left us all dusty and dirty from head to toe. None of us had much prior experience in construction, but it was very fun to learn these process and the AmeriCorps construction supervisors were friendly and helpful.
We stopped by the Friends of Rockaway warehouse after our workday and watched them receive an award from Red Cross, we then walked to the office of The Wave, a local newspaper, and spoke with Dan, who works there and was present for Sandy. He spoke at great length about the volunteers who came after Sandy, and how important they were to the rebuilding of the community. It was inspiring to hear his account of rebuilding after Sandy and the kindness and compassion people showed each other in the midst of tragedy.
While Sandy is no longer a national disaster that is at the forefront of many people’s minds, it is clear that the work is far from over. The government is ceasing funding for the Rockaway’s rebuilding efforts; meanwhile many people still feel the intense effects of this natural disaster. This is definitely a class issue, and there are visible discrepancies in the way that people of different income levels have recovered. Our work with Friends of Rockaway has given me the needed ammunition to try to keep Sandy and its victims in the public consciousness, as well as further analyze the relationship between income level and the ways in which people experience natural disasters.
Today was definitely an eye opener . It was the first day that we were actually on site, so all of us walked in not knowing what to expect. Most of us haven’t even ever held a sander before today. The day before we had orientation, so we walked in feeling great about the people we were working with. Walking in, we received a bit of background on the homeowner and the house. This house has been in his family for many years and after Sandy hit it was completely destroyed. He had lived there with his sister, but she decided that she couldn’t stay there anymore and she moved to New Jersey, which is also where he is staying while construction on the house finishes. We got a chance to meet with Emily and Christina, who have been working on that house since January. They told about about their experience working with AmeriCorps and how they got to be where they are today. The experience overall was tough, but knowing that we are placing someone back in their home makes the entire experience so rewarding.
After working on the site, we went to the Friends of Rockaway office where we met the CEO of the Greater New York Region of the Red Cross, we learned about their partnership with FoR and how they worked together to help alleviate the damage of the storm. My favorite part of the day was getting to meet and talk with Dan who is an editor at a local newspaper here in the Rockaways. He gave us a detailed history of the Rockaways and you can tell that the Rockaways mean the world to him. He told us that he has lived here for 35 years and that it is the one place that he can call home. When Sandy hit he was living here and he told us that the whole event was terrifying, it seemed like something that had come out of a horror movie. People’s homes were destroyed and they had no choice but to leave, however he discussed that when tragedy hit the Rockaways, he saw the community come together as one. Since Sandy struck the Rockaways have been rebuilding all the damage that was caused by the storm, and there is still a tremendous amount of rebuilding that needs to be done.
Being new to the concept of house repair and post-reparations, I went into the ASB program with an open mind. I didn’t think about how much the experience applied to my desired career in foreign relations and reparations. Needless to say, my eyes were opened, and my perspective was shifted. By working alongside my fellow peers in repairing the house of an individual, I understood the depth and amount of work it takes to truly help others on both a direct and indirect level. This perspective and ideology is vital, if work in my desired field is to be affective. I am enjoying myself thoroughly, and learning every step of the way.
Emily Fullhardt, Psychology ’17
Today was a very interesting first day. The entire situation threw me for a bit of a loop, living in a motel in an area that I had never been to before with people I had never met to do something I had never done before. It was exhausting and exhilarating. I can’t speak for the rest of the “ASB-ers,” but I had gone into the home that was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy with the assumption that we were going to be doing something simple such as painting only to be told that we were going to be “sanding and mudding” (neither of which I have any experience in, or have even heard of). But I signed up for the Alternative Spring Break to have new experiences and, by the notion of having to sand and mud, it delivered.
The volunteers that were helping out Friends of Rockaway invited to see the CEO of the Red Cross – New York present Friends of Rockaway with a Championship Award, which was clearly something the Friends of Rockaway worked very hard for and were extremely proud to receive. Seeing how proud the Friends of Rockaway were to receive that award reinforced how proud I was to be there with Pace University. It was also refreshing to see how efficient, grassroots organizations get recognized and praised by larger volunteering (and otherwise) corporations.
We, as a group, got to finish the day by talking with Dan Guarino, editor of “The Wave,” the Rockaways’ local newspaper. Mr. Guarino experienced the effects, as well as the after-effects, of Hurricane Sandy and was able to talk about it through personal experience. It was a great way to end the first day because we were able to hear from someone who had been in the area during the storm and his perspectives on what happened. Hearing how close the community of Rockaway became was refreshing and it was nice to hear about how close the community still is, despite any differences that were once there.
Even though we were all covered in dust, extremely cold, and very tired, Mr. Guarino’s stories re-invigorated us and inspired us to continue what were we’re doing with a positive mental attitude tomorrow.