By Jen Maldonado
Hurricane Sandy has blown its way through the homes of many New Jersey and New York residents, including those of Rider’s students and faculty who weren’t able to escape the storm’s path.
Students received an email from the administration encouraging them to return home from both the Lawrenceville and Westminster campuses if possible before the storm hit, but many did not anticipate their hometowns would be hit as hard as they were.
“When Hurricane Sandy was first talked about, my family honestly never expected it to be as destructive and devastating as it was, which is why they chose not to evacuate along with other neighbors,” said Erin O’Keefe, a senior public relations major who lives in a house off campus and was not at her family’s home during the storm. “Little did we know, it would later wipe out our whole block with rushing waves of water and strong gusts of wind.”
Another student from Staten Island, Teresa Trotta, a senior radio and TV major, also decided to stay on campus since she didn’t think the storm “would be so bad,” but did eventually return home to see the damage that was done to her town.
“Driving around the island with my friends was heartbreaking,” Trotta said. “As we collected clothes to bring to evacuation sites, we began to realize so many places we shared memories in were gone. It literally looked like a scene from a movie. Piles of debris in front of every house, trees uprooted and fallen on top of homes, boats in the middle of the streets and on peoples lawns and army trucks everywhere. It all seemed surreal.”
Dr. Pamela Brown, professor and chair of the Department of Communication and Journalism who lives in Lawrence, said she was “just inconvenienced and out of power, cable and Internet for a few days.”
Her family on the other hand was not as lucky.
“My sister lives at the shore and never has there been any flooding before,” Brown said. “They lost two cars and a truck and had damage under the house. Never has there been any devastation like this.”
Since Rider canceled classes all last week, professors have had to make adjustments to their syllabi because no days are being added on to extend the semester, according to Dean of Students Anthony Campbell.
“I’ve had to cut chapters and simplify my syllabus,” Brown said. “Three days doesn’t sound like much to miss but it is. Our professors know the material of their classes and can reshape the course to work.”
Rider’s Lawrenceville campus only lost power for a few minutes during the storm, because the electrical infrastructure was replaced several years ago with a system that allows for the campus to use a different electrical feed if the main source was to go out, according to Mike Reca, associate vice president for Facilities and Auxiliary Services.
“If one section of the electrical service failed, it switched automatically to the other service that was active,” he said. “This provided us the backup system necessary to keep the power on during the hurricane.”
The Lawrenceville campus did not end up unscathed though.
“The only damage we did not anticipate was to the roof of the swimming pool at Maurer Gym,” Reca said. “However, the Facilities staff worked very quickly to coordinate the repair to this facility and it is now back up and running.”
The Westminster campus hasn’t fully recovered from the storm yet. The power line that feeds the Cottage and re-locatable buildings is still not back on, according to Reca.
“We have some portable generators on campus there to provide basic electrical service to both buildings,” he said.
Overall, many seem to agree that Rider fared well in the storm, compared to what others experienced.
“I feel both campuses were lucky given the level of damage in other areas,” Reca said.
“The level of communication and cooperation amongst staff from the president on down was amazing.”
Brown agrees, saying the campus “looks like it wasn’t seriously harmed,” because of the efforts of many Rider staff members.
Although some students’ hometowns were destroyed, they are keeping a positive outlook on the situation.
“Sandy has shown me that in a time of crisis people will pull together and go above and beyond to help their neighbors when they are in need,” Trotta said. “I believe it will take time but we are strong people who will rebuild our home. Sandy has made me very proud to say I am a Staten Island girl.”
O’Keefe has similar sentiments about the aftermath of the hurricane.
“Our basement flooded, our car is destroyed and the outside of the house is covered in debris, but those are material things that can be replaced, whereas lives of loved ones lost cannot be,” she said. “The sight of what was once my neighborhood is tragic and heartbreaking but seeing Staten Islanders come together to help one another during this tough time gives hope that we will rebuild. Everyone is just taking it day by day.”
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