Hurricane Sandy, now known as Superstorm Sandy, hit New Jersey on October 29, 2012. What was at first a tropical storm quickly escalated to a Category 2 hurricane. It is the largest Atlantic hurricane on record and also one of the most destructive. Damage costs are estimated to be in the billions.
Many people were left for weeks without water or power, forcing them to leave their homes and find shelter elsewhere simply to survive the freezing temperatures. Others stood in lines at schools to charge their phone batteries. The majority of New Jersey’s gas stations had to ration their supply and many people waited in long lines to fill up their cars. New York City’s subway system shut down, and the Port Authority Trans-Hudson train system was suspended for ten days; it continues to be on a limited schedule. And over 200 people have been reported dead.
So, how has the relief effort gone so far? Is enough being done for the people who have lost their homes and their livelihood? Answers are not easily found to these questions; at best, they are a mixture of positive, negative, and inconclusive.
There have been some conflicting reports regarding the response of the Red Cross. According to The Daily Beast, The Red Cross has rarely been seen, even though they reportedly raised over $150 million for Sandy relief. Some eyewitnesses have reported that where the Red Cross was, in fact, seen they lacked essential supplies, such as water and blankets. The New York Times reported growing frustration at the Red Cross’ lack of response. According to the spokesmen for the Red Cross, dozens of trucks and converted ambulances were provided to supply food and water, but other people helping with the relief effort claimed that the Red Cross trucks were rarely sighted, if at all. Even the Staten Island Borough President, James P. Molinaro, has been discouraging people from donating to the Red Cross.
Another controversial effort has been these tent communities. Originally intended to house utility workers from out of state, several counties requested they also be used for hurricane refugees. Unfortunately, instead of a warm bed to sleep in, as some were made to believe, these monstrous tents felt more like a prison. It took days for the massive tents to receive any heat, and the residents were not given enough blankets to stay warm in the freezing temperatures. Residents were also required to show ID wherever they went. Many residents have questioned their safety—with the arrival of utility workers to the tents, the ratio of men to women and children gave some cause for alarm. These tents are a sad and dismal alternative for those who have lost power or even their homes, but most of these people had no other choice. Of course, government resources are limited and time is needed to provide proper temporary housing for hundreds of displaced people. But why weren’t these ‘communities’ more prepared given that they received ample warning of the superstorm’s arrival?
What is more, hundreds of utility workers from around the country and even Canada have made their way to New York and New Jersey to help restore power to the thousands of families that have lost power and/or running water. But some who have offered to help have been turned away by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers [IBEW] . Capable men and women who were ready to offer a lending hand were told they could not help, because they were not part of the union. Supposedly, the problem was that the utility workers were not on the same pay scale as the union workers. But these people did not care about money, they simply wanted to help—but despite their protests, some were delayed for days sifting through union paperwork.
There has been good news amid the chaos and frustration. Power has, fortunately, finally been restored to several thousand homes, and progress is finally being made to help those still without power. And organizations like the Salvation Army have helped provide people with their most basic needs, such as, water, batteries, coats, and blankets. Several Catholic charities have also been providing relief through local parishes and millions of dollars donated from around the country. But many people are still without homes and daily necessities and these organizations still need your help.
You can give donations here and here. Please continue to pray for those still suffering from Hurricane Sandy and for those who have donated their time and skills to help bring relief.