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How Sandy Has Impacted New Jersey Commuters

The effects of superstorm Sandy were felt all across the east coast when it brought its treacherous wrath on the night of October 29th. With over 70 deaths and millions of people without power, heat and water, hurricane-turned-superstorm Sandy is one of the worst natural disasters to hit the East Coast.

While resident students were able to stay at school with no power and only cold water, commuter students dealt with Sandy in their hometowns where, in places like Hoboken, New Jersey, the conditions were unbearable.

“I did not expect the storm to be this bad, Hurricane Irene was taken more seriously than this storm especially in [Hoboken],” said commuter student, Tatiana Ferrero. “During the blackout I was in need, so people were helping me out and that includes the National Guard who supplied me with MRE’s and water.”

Many students who live in Hoboken witnessed much of the destruction first-hand and are now dealing with life post-Sandy.

Photo Credit – Jackie Algarin

“We bought canned goods from ShopRite right before the storm,” said senior Jacquelyn Algarin, also a Hoboken resident. “The lines were long and some aisles were completely clear of stock. You could see the fear in customer’s eyes. I stared at a woman whose hand was trembling while handing her cash to the cashier.”

“We lost power for five days but we did not lose water entirely but to this day, we do not have hot water or heat in our home,” said Jacquelyn.

“I watched the water from the Hudson River crashing toward my apartment building,” she added. “My 71-year- old grandmother walked through two-and-a-half feet of water just to get to safety. I had to fight through a crowd of desperate individuals to get a blanket that was being handed out by volunteers and scavenge water bottles from organizations. “

Apparently, conditions in Hoboken are worse than most people are aware of.

“With most of the Hoboken Housing Authority without power, we faced threat from looters lurking throughout apartment buildings attempting to rob while portraying themselves as policemen to gain access into our home,” added Jacquelyn.

“A few fights have taken place during volunteer distribution of food and water at the Senior Citizens building of Jackson Street. Most of Jackson Street’s local markets have suffered great damage and are closed till further notice; making it difficult for residents, including myself, to buy groceries locally. I was forced to walk to A&P in downtown Jersey City in order to get milk for my elderly grandmother. She is one of many affected by Hurricane Sandy.”

Some students were caught off guard with the destruction that Sandy left behind and wish they could have better prepared.

“We lost power for about four days,” said junior Jary Carvajal who lives in North Bergen.

“Those four days dragged on for what felt like weeks. I never realized how dependent I was on electricity until that happened and I’m sure I’m not the only who realized that.”

“We didn’t prepare as well as we should have,” she added. “All we did was tape up the windows. I didn’t fill up my car with gas because I never thought that there would be a gas shortage. That is the biggest regret I had when it came to hurricane.”

Commuter students not only dealt with the fear of having their homes damaged, flooding, being without power, heat and water but also the unexpected gas-shortage that accompanied the storm.

“The biggest struggle was definitely looking for gas,” said Jary.

“The lines were miles long and you were running the risk of the gas running out by the time it was your turn. I was on a line for three hours and after that wait, they told us that there was no more gas. I then had to wait on another line for two hours and finally got gas! Five hours for a full tank of gas? That was mind-blowing for me.”

Rosemarie Suarez, a senior who lives in West New York, was left without power for a week.

“We lit up the candles every night and had the perishable food in a tiny cooler outside on our balcony,” said Rosemarie.

Photo Credit – Jackie Algarin

“We bought two cases of bottled water, lots of non-perishable canned food, batteries, flashlights and candles. We used a 1960’s antique radio with only the AM band. We tried to run as many errands as we could before the sun went down. Me and mom feared nightfall since we knew that the low temperatures would be hard to withstand.”

“I live in Hudson County which is on a cliff right above the Hudson River,” said Rosemarie.
“Flooding was not an issue in our part of town but the waterfront, which is below sea level where Palisades Hospital is, was entirely flooded.”

To this day, a week and a half after the storm, many people on the east coast are still living without power.

“We were the last people on our street to lose power,” said Michelle Jines, a senior who lives in Plainfield, New Jersey. “Fortunately, we did not lose our water, though it wasn’t heated. We are lucky to still have gas and water, although we are hitting day eleven of living without electricity and power.”

With the chaos in the east coast during these post-Sandy days, Jacquelyn has tried to impart kindness and responsibility in young children.

“I helped young children in poverty understand the importance of helping their family by grabbing can goods and baby formula for their brothers and sisters to have.” said Jacquelyn.

“Those children that I helped did not understand these hardships, nor do I want to kill their ignorance. I simply expressed how proud their mother and father would be if they brought back food and blankets. I carried a box filled with cereal, soup, and jelly while those kids carried blankets and we walked to their home. They were absolutely excited to tell their mom what things they have brought home. This warmed my heart.”

While things are slowly beginning to go back to normal, the commute to school is not an easy feat for students who were affected by Sandy and who now also have to deal with the effects of the Nor’easter snow storm which followed Sandy a week later.

“I’m more dreading the commute than anything [else],” said senior, Amanda Martinez.

“Luckily the drive to school today wasn’t so bad but now that it’s snowing, I don’t know what to do. My dad is still working crazy hours and my mom is on a business trip, so I can’t take the temporary dorming offer. Who will take care of my dogs? Who will help my dad out at home?”

Photo Credit – Jackie Algarin

Jacquelyn, like many other students, is still not able to come back to Saint Peter’s due to her situation after the storm.

“It has been very difficult, more so because I am helping take care of my grandmother,” said Jacquelyn.

“Since the flood she has been having serious headaches, pain in her hands due to our cold home, and we recently lost a family member. I am currently unemployed and spend my last income and food for the home before the hurricane. We are hoping to gain some assistance from FEMA. I have a strong desire to go back to school and will so as soon as things clear up. We continue to push forward and further the progress toward a better, stronger, union.”

The school is offering temporary housing for any student that lives 30 miles or more away from the school with extenuating circumstances (loss of home, no power, no heat, in serious danger). This can help alleviate the stress of parents that have commuting students and can allow the students to have some sense of normalcy after the storm.

Any and all students who are eager to help those affected by the storm are encouraged to do so. Campus ministry is sending out daily emails for any student who wishes to volunteer and donate clothes. The Red Cross needs donations to help repair lost homes and to shelter the homeless.

“I donated money to the Red Cross,” said Yomna Eldeeb, a junior at Saint Peter’s. “I plan on donating clothes to the school and I’m not going to ignore cries for help because at one point, I cried for help too. If anyone is crying for help, you’re not alone, I’m here.”


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