Weathering the Storm: Facing Change and Transition

Hello again!

In my last blog some of you may remember I discussed our pending move to State College and how that would affect my not being able to take any classes for the Fall 2012 semester.

Well, I ended up not learning in a classroom setting, but I surely gained a lot of knowledge through life experiences. At my age, you may think what else can she learn about life? LOL

Some of the damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy.
Some of the damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy.

No more than a week after I wrote that blog, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on so many lives, including ours. Although we lost heat, water, electricity, and gas in our New York City apartment and suffered about $8000 damage to our recently purchased SUV, we were very fortunate compared to all the others who lost more than utilities and material items.

After three days of darkness, walking up and down 11 flights of stairs and not having the ability to heat my daughter’s milk, we once again evacuated to State College to avoid another hurricane. This was the second year in a row that we had to do this!

Needless to say, this year’s hurricane was more harrowing. We had been at Penn State for the Ohio State game, staying at the Penn Stater, and made the less than wise decision to return “Home for the Hurricane” on Sunday. We should have just stayed in State College.

As fortune would have it, we were to occupy our condominium in State College on November 1. The worst of the storm hit on October 29 and 30.  The damage in New York City was extensive and I have posted some photos to show it. We made the decision to head out to State College, purchase a couple of air mattresses, and hunker down without much until it was safe, or livable, to go back. We stayed until election day so that we would have the ability to vote back in New York City.  All utilities, with the exception of gas (which did not return until December 1) were working again.

We found out through the Penn State New York Chapter of the Alumni Association that the B1G (Big Ten) New York Chapters were planning to meet on Sunday, November 11, and head over to Staten Island to help those that were severely impacted by the hurricane. We met at the tip of Manhattan to take the Staten Island ferry over, at which point we took a subway (I didn’t even know Staten Island had a subway!) to a rally point, where we would then walk about 5 miles to a designated site.

Me (right-center), my husband Dion (left), and two other volunteers assist in Staten Island.
Me (right-center), my husband Dion (left), and two other volunteers assist in Staten Island.

I am so proud to say that over 60 Penn Staters showed up to help out of approximately 250 volunteers. It was an amazing turn out, and alums brought all sorts of items to donate, whether it was tools, canned goods, or clothing (my husband and I purchased diapers and wipes, given our affection for our daughters).  I would say most, if not all of the Penn State volunteers, wore some form of Penn State gear to proudly represent our school. As I think of it, it brings me to tears to know that I am part of an incredible university. It really brings meaning to the new motto “ONE TEAM” and JoePa’s legacy of the “Grand Experiment”.

Once we arrived in Staten Island, the mood was somber and the devastation worse.  But I will tell you that no matter how much damage and loss the residents suffered, they had such good words to say for our deeds, and more importantly, the university we represented. Numerous bystanders called out “Penn State!!!” or “Nittany Lions” as we trudged by.

The damage in Staten Island was devastating.
The damage in Staten Island was devastating.

It was a moment of distraction for them, and small words that made our volunteer efforts feel appreciated. Most of those who engaged in conversation with us invariably said they had a daughter, nephew, neighbor’s child, or someone close to them that went to Penn State. No school was represented in size, or apparel, like ours.

Our group helped a woman (who I will never forget) named Bobby, whose house was destroyed by the Atlantic Ocean’s power. She also suffered the loss of her mother’s ashes the day before, as another group threw them out “trying to help.” We formed a fire brigade from inside the house to awaiting garbage bags, making sure Bobby was at the front to ensure she approved of what was being tossed, while hoping for the miracle of an urn to suddenly reappear.

I learned more from these events than I would have in any class I could have taken this past semester.

Just as we have started to move on from tragedy, I can only hope that those we encountered in Staten Island have the capability to re-build and be stronger.

As for the new semester, I am a little nervous, but excited, to get back on track. For any fellow Penn State students, when/if you have the opportunity to come to State College, I hope you look me up!

We Are, and Always Will Be, Penn State.