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After a weak Hurricane Irene, it was difficult to believe that Hurricane Sandy would be anything near catastrophic. It would be just a storm; after all – New York, New Jersey, Brooklyn – we don’t get hurricanes. But we did. No flooding downpours of rain but a swirling cyclone of fatal winds and raging waves determined to drown out the eastern coast. It is impossible to verbalize the images of blown out windows, ceiling fans torpedoed into the middle of the street, elderly women hanging onto every drip of oxygen until a glitch in power sends her into a permanent sleep, houses crumbling like sand, or full grown trees ripped from the roots crushing hearts and cracking bones. It is impossible to portray the cold, hungry, dirty individuals who lost everything – their houses rather their homes, pictures, belongings – and once their minds wrinkle in old age- they will have nothing to show for their memories. The children robbed of their youth while pacifiers and rattles swim down the salt water streets. Chaos and destruction rip though the towns; the coast is now reflected under dimmed lights from broken street lamps – the reflection of the world we once knew. Mother Nature fell upon us with a force that turned our land into a war-zone.

Staten Island – forgotten, neglected, misplaced on the map but in the time of desperation, sorrow, pain, and need – the diverse community rise up – stand together and protect their own. Resources are not coming in and where is the damage done shown to the world? Devastation. Tombstones lie between the Outerbridge and the Verrazano bridges. Loss. Suffering. Ruin. But generators and public toilets were just days away from assisting the participants of the marathon. How about using time, money, and energy to assist those destroyed and deprived as a result of Sandy’s wrath? You want to talk about running? Talk to the victims who fought for their lives, who died protecting their lives, who died protecting someone else’s life. Use that power, energy, and strength to help the needy who grow stronger with every person that gives, donates, or just helps by lending a hand or small, simple gesture. Talk about being taken advantage of. What does that say about the world- for making money and running marathons to be prioritized over natural disaster recovery. But don’t worry, we’ll band together and rebuild our communities.

I walked the cracked streets of ruin, where water and wind tore apart lives. The images on the news cannot reflect the heartbreaking damage, the horrifying realization, or the overwhelming emotion of walking through these communities, seeing these broken homes, and helping the homeowners take everything out of their homes because now everything is contaminated. I cannot verbalize what feelings emerged into every part of my being upon helping these victims and seeing the effects of Sandy. All I know for sure is that these feelings have completely overcome every part of my being and I am forever changed as a result of it. But what surprises me the most was the amount of people out in the streets, in the homes of strangers assisting and spending their time and money to help those who needed it most. Of course, I was out there doing the same thing but like many others – I saw that those who treated broken street lights like four way stop signs were minimal in comparison to those who could not wait a moment to be conscious of another person and sped through their light on their way to wherever – and this is just a simple moment that defines many others that caused me to believe the majority of the inhabitants of Staten Island were people like this. Especially having run into so many people who were rude, fake, and selfish. Hurricane Sandy changed this notion as I saw people come out of the shadows and rise up to help anyone and everyone. I am truly surprised that so many people were out there helping and forming groups to do something, how many cared and were giving. I reckon there are those who could care less about helping those who have no food or clothing, as their cars sailed away and their roofs flew down the road but the majority are heart warming individuals who have no reason nor anything to gain from helping, other than the fact that they care. How people come together after such a horrific storm can change your perspective a lot. We all have the ability to change and to make a change, and I speak for every borough – every state – we take care of our own and then some.

Whether you love Staten Island or you hate it, whether you want to stay or can’t wait to leave it – this is where you live. This is where some of you grew up, where friends and family are – if you’re here, some part of your life is also here so do something to help. You don’t need money to be able to give. But if this destruction and chaos doesn’t make you see what’s important, changes your perspective on life, and makes you realize what fights are important and what aren’t – nothing ever will. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” If you cannot pick yourself up out of your life to help just one person, or use some of your resources to send us assistance, or to care enough about the damage done and care more about a marathon, until enough harsh words and rash actions go against what you’re trying to pursue – then do not dare question what is wrong with this world.

In conclusion, Hurricane Sandy was far worse and far more heart wrenching than we could have ever anticipated or envisioned. The loss created a loss of words, as the fatalities grow and the homes demolished must be taken down and rebuilt. A war zone was created by what seemed like the Four Hoursemen of the Apocalypse but together we are bound as soldiers – freezing, bloody, broken but with the ability to do something – to do good – and so we do it. We do not complain about the lack of power because we see there are people who have it far worse. We give our time to others effortlessly. As I was walking throughout the North Shore yesterday, I saw a boarded up house and on the boards, a message was spray painted for the world to see – “We lost our home but we still have our hearts.” That’s what Sandy’s victims have to say. That’s what Staten Islanders have to say. We are strong and we will rise from the rubble. The entirety of Staten Island is our home and we will do what we have to for it. We still maintain courage through the chaos. We will always take care of our own.

(pictures to come)