A Spirit of Service Following Disaster

By: Amy Spohr

December 19, 2012

When I first heard that a hurricane was going to be hitting the East Coast around Halloween, I thought nothing of it. After all, these kinds of threats happen all the time. I spent the weekend of October 26th with my boyfriend, who was visiting from New York, as normal, and when his bus on Sunday was cancelled—and all buses to and transportation in New York cancelled through Wednesday—I realized that this hurricane might be more serious than I had originally thought. After all, New York is the city that never sleeps.
In DC, all we got was some downed trees and, to many students’ delight, two days off from class. To us, it seemed like the usual threat of a hurricane that didn’t measure up to the hype. The situation in New York was much different, however. I’m from Long Island, and having my parents call me and tell me that things were horrible up there didn’t hit me until later. My family was out of power and heat for over a week, but we were incredibly lucky. Many former classmates of mine live in Long Beach, Long Island, a coastal town, and when I saw no activity from them on Facebook I didn’t think anything of it, until I realized that all of them probably lost their homes and everything in them from the tremendous storm surges. One of my best friends from home had a tree go through her bedroom roof—while she was in it. Towns on the shore were decimated, becoming wastelands full of garbage and broken homes. The beaches that I frequent during the summer were turned upside down, and the highway that led to all of them literally cracked in half. When I went home for Thanksgiving I got to see this for myself, and it was all that anyone—family, friends, television, radio—talked about. Jarring is not strong enough a word for what this was like for me. I still don’t fully believe that these things happened.

Despite my doubts, I wanted to do something to help everyone back home in any way that I could. I work at Health Education Services, and as a group we came up with an idea to write notes of inspiration and support on a huge banner in Red Square. Titled “Solidarity for Sandy,” an incredible amount of students showed up to give support to those affected by the hurricane. Seeing so much support for those I love made me proud of my Hoya family.

I didn’t feel like writing notes to those in need was enough, though. My church back home falls under the Diocese of Rockville Centre, and this diocese covers all of Long Island. In an effort to help those in need, the diocese was asking for toiletry items. With the help of Sarah Justvig, Warren Wilson, and the Center for Social Justice (CSJ), we were able to collect a large box of toiletries from Georgetown students, faculty, and staff to send to the diocese. In addition, we sent the banner filled with messages of hope. SJ was also able to start an online donation system, and Health Education and my friend Stephen Gliatto collected spare change for the American Red Cross and Catholic Charities.

Hoyas are committed to social justice, and it means so much to know that this commitment has been translated into helping my home recover. I know that my family and home were fortunate in not suffering any damage, but so many, and so many I know, were not so lucky. While this may seem like a small contribution in the efforts of justice in such an unjust world, its effects are still felt by those whom we have helped. Even our small prayer service and candlelight vigil for those in Newtown will mean so much to those in unimaginable pain. I can only hope that we continue to grow as a community that helps one another through thick and thin, both here at Georgetown and in our nation and our world.
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A Spirit of Service Following Disaster