I believe that my relationship to Hurricane Sandy is best described as one that has fluctuated between a direct and indirect connection. Because I was not experiencing the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy when I was in St. Louis, I had trouble understanding the severity of the natural disaster. However, through listening to explanations from my family and news reports, seeing photographs and video footage, and receiving concern from my peers and professors, I was reminded that, as a New Yorker, I truly had a personal connection.
After Hurricane Sandy hit, my family lost power for nine days. I am from Scarsdale, NY, which is a town in Westchester County located thirty minutes outside of New York City. While Scarsdale, and other towns in Westchester for that matter, was certainly affected by Hurricane Sandy, the devastation was less extreme than that of New York City and unparalleled to that of Long Beach. Regardless of the spectrum of devastation, my family felt frustrated and inconvenienced by Hurricane Sandy. At the same time, though, my mother, father, brother, and sister also felt sad. They acknowledged that their lives were not turned upside-down or even dramatically changed, as were the lives of people from different areas of New York. Every time I would call home, my family members would reveal these feelings in conversations that seemed brief and unsubstantial to me. I did not, however, recognize the role that I played in the situation.
During our phone calls, I would ask about the status of regaining power and would proceed to talk about my day. Because my parents did not have much to say, most of the conversations would end with them telling me that their cell phones were about to die and that they would recharge them later at a family friend’s house. I remember asking my brother why my parents were in such a funk and were being boring to talk to. To which my brother responded, “Anna, you just don’t get it.”
He was correct. I did not get it. Since I wasn’t experiencing the ramifications of Hurricane Sandy, I felt detached from the situation. However, as a New Yorker, I was more directly connected to the situation than I had ever thought. My professors offered to extend deadlines for students from New York, my advisor asked how my family was faring, and my peers constantly showed me how much they cared. My brother’s words prompted me to learn more about what was occurring, which areas were most damaged, and what actions were being taken to help resolve the situation because I wanted to be better informed.
Even though I am more informed, I still am slightly concerned about my role as a researcher. This concern stems from the double consciousness that Haney and Barber discuss in their essay, “Reconciling Academic Objectivity and Subjective Trauma: The Double Consciousness of Sociologists who Experienced Hurricane Katrina.” The authors explain how they felt that torn between their identities as “subjective disaster [survivors]” (Haney 106)” and “objective [academics]” (Haney 106). While I do not feel conflicted with my identity, I wonder if being from New York is enough of a connection. My family and I did not endure the same hardships as Long Beach residents, which suggests that I cannot relate to their experiences. However, I am hoping that this will necessarily interfere with my work.
By studying Long Beach and Hurricane Sandy, I would like to not only further my knowledge and research skills, but will also compensate for the detachment that I initially felt. By reading more about Long Beach and Hurricane Sandy as well as following Facebook content and conducting interviews, I am looking forward to increasing my overall awareness about this natural disaster and its impact on many people. As a Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Major, I am particularly interested in focusing on how Hurricane Sandy affected women and men in Long Beach and what, if any, changes occurred in their overall family dynamic.
Haney, Timothy J., and Kristen Barber. “Reconciling Academic Objectivity and Subjective
Trauma: The Double Consciousness of Sociologists who Experienced Hurricane Katrina.” 39:105. 30 January 2012: Sage Publications. Web. 15 January 2013. <http://crs.sagepub.com/content/39/1/105