Last month, the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy passed reminding people that although much relief work has been done in the past year, there is still a long way to go. This week’s Campus Celebrity, Jen Snyder, is a perfect example of this fact. Jen, a sophomore nursing major here at TCNJ, lost most of her belongings in the storm. Despite the devastation that she has experienced, Jen remains positive and continues to help the effort to rebuild the shore.
Jen’s mother and her fiancé, residents of Ortley Beach for ten years, were forced to evacuate before the storm. Jen explained that because they, like most of the people who were evacuated, did not take the storm seriously, only packed their belongings for a weekend. Her family was not allowed to return to their home until two months after the storm, by which time they discovered that nothing else was salvageable from their home. They lost pictures, jewelry, clothes, TVs, and more according to Jen. Her mother started living in a small motel, and when her parents in New Mexico grew ill, she packed up what little belongings she owned and moved in to care for them.
Jen stayed with her father who lives on the water in Brick Township during the storm. Jen, along with her father and brothers, decided to wait out the storm at her neighbor and dear friend’s house after her family lost power. Even though the house has never been reached by water before, her neighbor’s house began to flood the night after the storm started. Water was flooding the streets as well, and “by 2:00 a.m. my brother was taking my nieces to safety in a canoe while my other brother and I walked in waist deep water the few blocks to home,” Jen explained.
The next day, after receiving phone calls from neighbors, her brother used his canoe to bring more neighbors to safety. However, Jen said that “one of our neighbors did not make it because he drowned to death before anyone could get to him.” With classes cancelled at TCNJ, Jen and her family continued to help people every day. They weren’t able to leave the neighborhood for several days, and even so food and gas were limited, she explained. Their home remained without power for nineteen days.
Because the bay met the ocean during the storm, every high tide following the storm caused flooding again. This made rebuilding extremely difficult in Brick Township, and almost impossible. Many of Jen’s friends lost their homes and the community club where she and her friends grew up in was destroyed as well.
Jen’s experience with Sandy definitely had an effect on all aspects of her life, even after returning to school. “I was stressed and upset all of the time, and I could not stop thinking about all of the things that would be different because of the storm,” Jen said. “I could no longer see my mother whenever I wanted, I could no longer go to the boardwalk and other places I grew up enjoying, I could no longer walk down the street to my friend Ryan’s house because it was no longer there,” she explained.
Despite the traumatic effects of the storm, Jen was able to use her connection as a Bonner here at TCNJ to bring relief work back to her hometown every weekend. They helped to demolish houses, get rid of ruined furniture and household items, clean up the beaches, and dig out houses that were buried in sand.
A year later, Jen says that “there is so much work to be done still, but we have come a long way. The bays still have to be cleaned out and houses still need to be rebuilt. One of my neighbors just rebuilt their house from Hurricane Sandy and moved into it last week,” she says, “it feels great to know there is progress being made.” This progress and Jen’s positivity has allowed her to believe that “there is hope for a restored shore.”
If you’d like to get involved in Sandy relief work, check out the Bonner’s website: http://hereforhome.pages.tcnj.edu/