Breanna Battles Alternative Spring Break 2019

Over this past week, I was able to work at three different homes. Tuesday and Wednesday was spent painting doors, walls, even ceilings. However, what I did on Thursday was very different and will have a lasting impact on the way I look at disaster recovery for the rest of my life. Going into Alternative Spring Break, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that these homes were severally damaged, but when I showed up to the first two homes, they looked like normal houses to me. At first it was difficult to imagine the damage that was done. However, on our last day, I had the opportunity to be one of the first people to start the process of recovery in a home ruined by Sandy. This house was completely ruined. Ceilings were falling, paint was peeling off the walls, and there was barely any room to walk from all the trash that was thrown around. This is what I imagined the houses we were going to be working on to look like. We were tasked with throwing away all the things the homeowner, an elderly woman named Rose, didn’t want to keep.

Before starting, we were given masks and white, hazmat like suits to ensure that any mold or other dangerous things in the house would not compromise our safety. Wearing this outfit, was admittedly, very fun and made the experience even more enjoyable. After everyone was suited up, we formed an assembly line starting in the house leading to the dumpster outside. In the beginning, I was stationed outside, then after lunch, I moved to help upstairs. We cleaned out almost the entire house and completely filled the massive dumpster. The house at the end of the day, was almost unrecognizable compared to what it looked like that morning.

Every once in a while, as I walked throughout the house I would run into Rose. Every chance she got, she would thank us for being there and for helping her. It’s hard to imagine the impact that you can make in just one day, but as much as that one day will influence my future choices, I know it was an even more important day for Rose. She was forced to leave after the storm flooded her house in 2012 and Thursday was the first time she had been back since. I know that what I did that day, was the beginning of her journey to recovery and although it was a small step on a long path, it was the first step of actual action.

When we talk about these hurricanes and tropical storms that continue to destroy communities, we refer to them as “one in a life time” events. But, over the past few years, they are happening multiple times in a single year. In 2017 alone, the United States was hit with three huge storms; Irma in Florida, Harvey in Texas, and Maria in Puerto Rico. The next year, two more major storms, Michael and Florence, hit along the east coast. As these storms continue to ravage homes, year after year, it becomes increasingly more difficult for those who are affected to recover.

Research has shown that in the future, the number and intensity of these storms will continue to grow because of anthropocentric climate change and global warming. However, few politicians, especially those servings states most affected by these storms, are addressing the need for a renewed approach on how humans interact with our environment. Although legislation is being proposed through groups, such as the Climate Solutions Caucus in the House of Representatives, there is always more that can be done. It is important for our leaders to recognize the impact climate change has on the lives of their constituents and to begin collaboratively working on ways in which we can lessen the role humans have on creating these dangerous storms.