By Joe Petrizzo
It’s like a scene from The Walking Dead: The campus is devoid of people and debris litters the paths. There’s concern about having enough food and water. The wind grumbles eerily through the noisy tree branches that dangle precariously above the heads of those that remain. Everyone either has cabin fever or is just plain crazy. Communication with the outside is hindered and the entire world seems to have ceased.
The day after Hurricane Sandy blew by was a day like no other. As I watched students slowly emerge from their residence halls, I saw looks of panic and relief. As the day went on it became apparent that Rider was spared the brunt of the storm and received significantly less damage than the New Jersey coastal towns. As information slowly filtered through, students either breathed a sigh of relief as they saw that their hometown made it through the storm relatively undamaged or gasped as they saw the wreckage Sandy had done.
I couldn’t be more grateful that my family and friends are all safe. The damage done to my house in Hazlet was minimal – a fallen basketball pole, a few missing fence panels and a collapsed gutter. But the surrounding towns were not so lucky. I scanned Facebook looking at photos that my friends who had power or charged smartphones posted and was stunned at the devastation. One picture that stands out in particular is one of a completely leveled house in the neighboring Union Beach. It was so profound because what remained of the house looks like the house behind mine.
I never thought I would see the day where the President of the United States and the Governor of New Jersey — fierce political enemies — would work cooperatively and praise each other while viewing storm damage in places I recognized, places I have been to and places that no longer exist. I always thought these kinds of things happened in other countries and in other states.
As the recovery process continues on, things will get better. New Jersey may be ridiculed by the other forty-nine states, but in the upcoming weeks, the other states will see a “new” Jersey as everyone bands together and reinvigorates the state. Part of one of our state icons – the Seaside Boardwalk – may have been destroyed, but I am confident that New Jersey has not been. With the outstanding leadership of our federal, statewide and local elected officials — something else I never thought I’d see — there is no way we can fail.