From the curbside, one is unable to truly fathom how much damage resides in the New Jersey homes that were underwater for days due to Hurricane Sandy.
Expecting to see pure devastation as they drove through the streets, the nine members taking part on the first of three Hurricane Sandy relief trips were surprised as certain areas of the city looked completely normal, as if they hadn’t even been touched by a drop of water.
Sophomore Katy McLaughlin said, “You literally couldn’t tell that there was any damage from outside, but right when you stepped to the front door of the house, you saw how wrecked the rooms were. I think that is another reason why many people might not know that this issue is still going on, because it’s not obvious.”
With hard hats, respirators, safety goggles, gloves and tools in hand, the team rolled up its sleeves and got down to business; smashing through walls, ripping down the waterlogged ceiling with the insulation and tearing up the tile floors. For a day and a half, the crew worked on homeowner Cosmo Cianci’s house, which was severely affected by the storm. His house was hit with high winds. The roof was blown off, the basement flooded because of the surge water and it still remains without heat and running hot water. The damage got progressively worse with the rain over the past few months.
When asked how he survived the evenings without heat during these winter months, Cianci responded, “I have two oil filled electric heaters, I sleep under six to eight blankets, I wear two pairs of wool socks, sweat pants, two hooded zip up sweatshirts, a coat, a scarf around my neck and face and gloves. That’s how I go to sleep, and that’s how I’ve been having to sleep since October 29, 2012.”
Trip leader Jen Grivers said, “The hardest part is seeing how these people are living. Their houses were completely destroyed, and they’re left without heat and warm running water. This happened many months ago and they’re still having to deal and suffer.”
Grivers added, “These people don’t have the resources to do it themselves and surely not the money. Houses all around here were affected and the owners were all relying on the insurance companies, but not everyone is going to get the amount of money that he or she deserve to bounce back from this disaster.”
Americorp had only started working on this relief project a few days before the Keene State College team joined, but Cianci commented on how he couldn’t be more grateful of the organization and students to help him get back on his feet. He said, “To me it’s one of the most beautiful expressions of loving one’s fellow human being.” Some of the KSC students left the noisy demolition house to go help at a distribution center with Brigantine & Beyond, a group of volunteers who travel over an hour every Saturday to give out goods and help out one of the hardest hit communities. When telling the story of how the group came to be, co-founder of Brigantine & Beyond, Linda Nesa, said, “We were just two moms that saw that there was a need, somebody needs to help those people and we can be that somebody.”
At the center, the students helped the Hurricane Sandy victims who lost everything in the storm by bringing supplies out to their cars and sorting cleaning products, tools, food and other necessities so the center could run smoothly.
Speaking about the relief efforts being done Nesa said, “Dropping off donations with the truck is one thing, but once establishing this distribution center and seeing the faces and hearing the stories, you just cannot walk away. We are going to be here as long as they need us and we want to get Brigantine back to what it was.” Candace Linn, project coordinator of the New Jersey Community Collaborations, spoke about the impact these students had in the community and said, “They’ve done a variety of projects and they’ve also just kind of brought back spirit to the community for people that have been struggling for the past couple of months and feel like people have forgotten about them.” An entire community was immersed in water and getting the city back to its original state will take time. Linn added, “It’s going take several months to rebuild, its going to take several years, so every day that someone goes in and helps out, that’s one step closer for that person to get back in their home.”
Two more Hurricane Sandy relief trips from KSC will take place in the upcoming month.
Kateland Dittig can be contacted at