The Community That Sandy Built

A community of leaves — perfectly tie-dyed.


It’s a word and a concept that’s been on my mind lately — which is pretty amusing, actually.  I often say the older I get, the more I like to stay in my yard and not deal with people — which is difficult to do, since I’m a school social worker.  In fact, I often joke that I’m an anti-social worker.

The truth, however, is that community is important to me.  I think it’s important to all of us.  As humans, we need to belong, to feel connected — even if only to commiserate about the crazy weather.  (As an aside, I would just like to say that in the past two weeks, my part of the world has endured a hurricane, a nor’easter, snow, and — today — Spring-like temperatures. My heart says, “Go out and start planting.”  My brain says, “Are you crazy?  It’s November!”)

Geraniums did not like the cold weather of the nor’easter. . .

This past week, I returned to my work community.  For seven days, schools on Long Island were closed as a result of Sandy.  Some schools in the devastated towns remain closed.

As the teachers and students walked into the building, there was a constant hum of the same questions: “How did you make out?”  “Do you have power?”  “Do you need anything?”  And then the conversations began.

Fortunately, the town where I work only suffered tree damage and power outages.  There wasn’t any flooding.  Several teachers, though, lost their homes.  One colleague shared photos of his home, which was located on a canal.  When the storm surge occurred, a dock broke free and smashed through the first floor of his home.

With the fine crevices of his hands still stained with mud, he explained that the most difficult part was watching his stuff lined up by the curb — only to have a town’s payloader scoop everything up and drop it all into a truck.  The bright spot, he added, was the strength and support of his community.

. . . neither did the hydrangeas.

I also heard the story of several of our varsity football players putting on their team jerseys and driving to the next town, which is home to their football rivals.  There, they entered a church and served food to people who, on any given weekend, would be cheering their defeat.  A new community was born, if even for a few moments.

I spoke to a woman who lives in Long Beach, one of the hardest hit communities on Long Island.  She runs an agency in a nearby school district that was also devastated, and she was asked to organize a fundraiser for that community.  When asked what my school could contribute, her response was immediate:

  1. Winter coats and clothing, especially for children.
  2. School supplies.
  3. Gift cards for local supermarkets and box stores.
  4. Cleaning supplies, especially plastic gloves and garbage bags.
  5. Pet foods, since many of the local animal shelters have been overrun with strays and pets that cannot be housed in emergency shelters.

Sandy has proven that communities matter, that we need them, that we need each other.

I often worry that as our world has become techno-rich, there is greater risk that we disconnect from one another.  And then I marvel at the wonders of Facebook and Twitter and other social media outlets.  I also read your comments, your thoughts, your prayers, your well wishes, and your offers of help.  Cathyann Burgess suggested some additional links for donations.

  1. American Red Cross
  2. Catholic Charities
  3. Robert R. McCormick Foundation
  4. Salvation Army New York
  5. Salvation Army New Jersey
  6. American Humane Association
  7. North Shore Animal League
  8. Additional Resources

I’m still mesmerized by the autumn colors on this leaf.

We may not live near each other (although I like to think that we do), but we do live in one of the largest communities ever created.  And we manage to make this place warm and personal — and I, for one, am very, very thankful to be able to add this blogging community to the list of communities to which I belong.

Thank you for your help.

25 thoughts on “The Community That Sandy Built

  1. Thanks for those inspiring stories of ‘community.’ It is nice to hear the positive that happens when disasters hit, and see how a community pulls together to help each other rebuild and grow stronger.

    • Hi Char. There have been reports of looting and mismanagement at the local utility company, and tempers are running thin. That being said, it’s important to remember the importance of community and how necessary we are to one another. Be well!

  2. Thanks for your wonderful thoughts on community. As school teachers ourselves, we understand the important links we must all have with our school communities but also extend those to the outer communities and make our students appreciate the world around us. Lovely autumn images – our hydangeas are about to flower, nature is wonderful in all parts of the wrold. Very enjoyable post.

    • Hello Flavia. It seems that it becomes more and more difficult these days to build those connections — but even during a crisis, we should discover those teachable moments.

    • When I spotted those leaves, I screeched to a halt. For the life of me, I do not remember ever seeing that before. Maybe I walked by at the right moment — definitely a bright spot!

  3. Tears in my eyes, Kevin. The experience of the Waldo Canyon fire and the community it spawned in our city still so close. Witnessing, over time, the recoveries of those who lost everything but their lives will be the long story. As I’m sure you know, the triumph over such trauma can be very hard won, even by the most resillient. May your good heart hold true.

  4. You have been through so much! As a teacher, I completely understand the sense of community that schools foster. Thanks for the list of links. I saw an article about a flood of unwanted donations that had been sent to NY/NJ and was unsure of what help was needed. Your posts about this disaster have been as beautiful as those maple leaves. You are in my prayers. 🙂

    • Hello. Thanks for your support. I’ve spoken to several people who are living in the heart of the disaster. Right now, the needs are shifting. It’s more about rebuilding than recovery. The urgency for basics (clothes, blankets, batteries) is passing, and now residents need baby supplies (diapers, food, etc.), cleaning supplies, school supplies, pet supplies, tools, rebuilding supplies, and gift cards to box stores where they can purchase what they need. What makes rebuilding somewhat more urgent is the colder weather. As I learn more, I promise to post updates. Be well.

  5. Thanks Kevin for continuing to let us know the stories of Sandy’s aftermath. My husband was in Chicago last week and he was surprised when watching local news there the amount of devastation. We got the initial news but had no idea of the extent of the damage.

    • The good news here on Long Island, most of the power has been restored — except in the most devastated areas. Homeowners are now concerned with rebuilding, as well as replenishing many of the local food pantries. I’ll keep you all posted.

  6. Kevin, it’s really good to hear from you, and to learn more about the stories directly from someone who knows. I must say that I realized how the blogging community is important to me when the storm hit and I found myself thinking of you and at least half a dozen others I knew were directly in the path. Then to watch storm footage on television took on very personal dimensions and I really did feel very concerned. I do think the relief agencies are going to need a continual influx of giving for quite some time!

    • Hi Debra. I was actually on the phone with several area churches to inquire if they had any specific needs for a school fundraiser. Right now, clothes are not the issue. Cleaning supplies, food, pet supplies, and tools are — we keep on reaching out.

  7. It’s a shame when it takes a tragedy to pull us together. Thanks for sharing what some remarkable young people did. Just goes to show they have a wonderful spirit.

    • Hi Diane. They do have spirit — and they have inspired me to work with the larger school community to do the same for our rivals. In my mind, you can’t have a rivalry without the rivals. 🙂

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