Most Americans and people worldwide have depended on devastating photos, videos, and news stories to know the details of last week’s Hurricane Sandy. Many Swarthmore students have used the campus’ 18-hour power outage and the anomaly of two-day class cancellation as proof that the hurricane affected the College. For several unfortunate students, though, the effects of Hurricane Sandy extend beyond its impact on campus.
Nicole Vanchieri ’13, a New York resident from the Rockaways, is among the students whose families were hurt significantly by the hurricane.
“The hurricane hit everybody in my neighborhood very hard,” she said. “Our house, like every other house in the neighborhood, had the entire basement flooded to the point where everything will need to be removed and thrown out. Our sliding glass door and front door blew into the house early on in the storm, which resulted in a lot of debris and broken glass to fill the first floor.”
Vanchieri’s parents did not evacuate, although they were fully prepared with clothes and documents in case of an emergency. Despite the damage done to her house, Vanchieri’s family was lucky compared to the majority of her neighborhood; several houses only a block away from hers burned down.
Michaela Shuchman ’16, whose family lives in Philadelphia but has a house in Longport, New Jersey, also experienced the physical effects of Hurricane Sandy. While her house in Philadelphia incurred similar inconveniences to what Swarthmore experienced, the ocean water ruined her shore house’s deck and furniture. Shuchman predicts it will be years before the town fully recovers from the hurricane.
“I didn’t think that seeing pictures of a house pretty much destroyed that I had grown up in would affect me very much, but then I remember the memories and how it won’t ever look like that again,” she said. “This summer definitely will not be the same as other summers. Some of our friends’ houses are wrecks so we probably won’t see them down there for a while, and the whole ‘look’ of the town is different. It’s unclear whether we’ll even be able to live in the house, if there still is a house, this summer.”
Long Island resident Ian Lukaszewicz ’15 is another student whose memories will be affected by the detriments of Hurricane Sandy. With no chimney, a ruined room, and a disheveled backyard, his house still lacks power and, consequently, heat. This made it difficult for him to contact his family directly after the storm. It could be several more days before his family regains power. Similar to Vanchieri’s home, Lukaszewicz’s house did not encounter as much damage as many people he knew who lived close by.
“It’s weird to see pictures of my friend’s house and know that I’ve been there a lot,” he said. “One of my friends lost his backyard, and that’s where we hang out every summer.”
Dominic Rizzo ’15 and Emma Madarasz ’15, both New Jersey residents whose families were lucky enough not to experience any serious hurricane effects, are still without power and heat.
“Fortunately, though we lost a few trees that damaged some property, my family was generally prepared for the storm because of Irene [and] the snowstorm last year,” Madarasz said. “We had gotten all our dead trees removed since there was so much damage during those last two storms.”
Although Madarasz’s house was not drastically affected, Hurricane Sandy still impacts her family; her two younger sisters have been out of school for over a week, and her parents cannot go to work because of poor road conditions. Rizzo’s younger sister, too, has been out of school for a week. The town in which Rizzo’s family has a shore house evacuated its first three blocks; his house is on the fourth block. While Rizzo’s family did not see the worst of the hurricane, the natural disaster still impacted him emotionally.
“The destruction my family described has been unfathomable,” he said. “I didn’t realize how bad the storm was at first because we weren’t really affected here at Swat. The horror stories of children being swept out of the arms of their mothers by the water and entire neighborhoods being obliterated obviously hit hard anytime, but have a special impact when the tragedy happens close to home.”
Rizzo is not the only student who was affected emotionally.
“I feel so blessed that none of my family or any of my friends down there were in the town during the storm, but just thinking about ‘what if’ is scary,” Shuchman said. “Houses, streets, and foliage can be replaced, but people cannot.”
In response to the hurricane, Vanchieri decided to take action. Collecting clothes, cleaning supplies, batteries, and other supplies, Vanchieri plans to donate to those in need. She spent this past weekend in New York, giving supplies to friends who lost their homes.
“I was motivated to collect donations because every single house and family I know from my neighborhood has sustained extreme damages,” she said. “Each person must get rid of their entire basements. People are in great need now, and I feel a personal responsibility to give back to the community that gave me such a wonderful childhood.”
Although Vanchieri is grateful to everyone who has already helped her, she still encourages everyone to help and donate supplies and money to local charities, such as the American Red Cross. Visit http://www.redcross.org/pa/philadelphia/donate for ways to donate.