My parents and I were sitting down to breakfast in a St. Louis café when the calls and texts started coming in, my Midwestern-based family was incessantly repeating news reports, theories, ect. about the oncoming storm and calmly, but insistently, informing us that our house was going to blow over. This is very normal behavior for my extended family. My parents, sister and I live in a costal town of MA, but every time there is a thunderstorm in Florida or a snow storm in Maine, we inevitably get calls from my grandparents, aunts, and uncles, to “ask how we are fairing”. This was the first alerts we had heard about Sandy, so we shrugged it off like we do most of their worries and finished our breakfasts.
A few hours later my parents were on the phone booking a flight back to MA that very day. They needed to secure the house, bring in the kayak, help the neighbors, comfort the dog…this time the weather reports affirmed my extended families worries. We were going to be hit, and hard.
After watching the Weather Channel as Sandy tore up the east coast and passed through my little Cape Cod town, I called my parents to hear the damage. Nothing. Sure they were stuck in the house for a few days because the road leading to our neighborhood could only be traversed by kayaks, but there was no damage. No uprooted trees, no collapsed houses, not even a power outage. I was relieved.
But that relief soon left me when I started hearing the numerous stories of destruction from my friends in New York and New Jersey. It was their stories that first got me interested in doing something, anything, to help those who were not as fortunate as myself in the aftermath of Sandy. When I was contacted by one of my Professors about the study she was beginning on Long Beach after Sandy, I knew this was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for.
Long Beach is an area that was absolutely ravaged by Sandy, an area that is still suffering as a result. As a student with an intended double major in International Area Studies (sustainable development concentration) and Political Science, this area holds a special appeal to me. I am very interested in examining the effectiveness of both the official government response for relief in this area as well as the additional aid being provided by NGOs and private citizens. On the flip side of my interests, I am interested in how exactly Long Beach is being rebuilt. With my Sustainable Development concentration I focus mainly on developing countries abroad (specifically Africa, East Asia, and South America to give a very general idea) and look at how these countries can modernize and develop into sustainable areas–politically, environmentally, and technologically. Although the situation in Long Beach cannot be drawn as a parallel, there are certain similarities. Long Beach is in the unique situation of being an already “developed” area that has the necessity to start from scratch. I am interested in watching the rebuilding of Long Beach in comparison with societies that have never received the label of “developed”, and comparing the forces at work and eventual outcomes in each case.
One concern with studying Long Beach is that of remaining objective in an area that I was first drawn to by the deeply emotional stories of my close friends. In the piece entitled Trauma: The Double Consciousness of Sociologists who Experience Hurricane Katrina the difficulty of “shelv[ing] our deeply emotional selves…to succeed in our [objective] work” (7) is discussed. I, however, feel that my emotions about this situation will not impede the objectivity of my work, but rather impassion me to put as much into this project as I can to help those individuals, both who I know and who I do not, that were affected by Sandy.
Trauma: The Double Consciousness of Sociologists who Experienced Hurricane Katrina.” 39:105. 30 January 2012: Sage Publications. Web. 15 January 2013.