By Caitlin Chciuk
November 8, 2012
On Monday, October 29, I was in my cozy apartment in Salona watching the news as places near and dear to my heart were being ripped apart by Hurricane Sandy. Trees were crushing cars and homes left and right. People were dying. As my family sat in their dark, cold homes in north-central New Jersey, winds raging around them, I sat in an apartment that was barely even touched by the horrific storm.
The next day, when pictures of the Seaside Heights boardwalk surfaced, I stared at them in shock; my favorite roller coaster had been sucked into the ocean. The boardwalk itself is now just a pile of broken wood. The place where my family has spent the last ten summers is destroyed.
But what broke my heart even more than the storm damage was the comments that hit social media soon after the storm had calmed and passed. Multiple times, I heard and read things like “Jersey is getting its yearly bath.” Fake before-and-after photos of Jersey beaches surfaced; the “before” photos showed a trashed beach, while the “after” photos showed an empty beach, implying that the hurricane cleaned up New Jersey. People complained that the storm wasn’t big enough or good enough out here in Lock Haven.
Maybe it didn’t affect us all that badly here in central Pennsylvania, but is it really that easy to forget that people not so far away lost their homes, and some even lost their lives as a result of this storm?
For the four-and-a-half years I have been enrolled here, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard every New Jersey joke there is. I’ve been asked how I deal with driving in Jersey almost as many times as I’ve been asked if I know Snooki (side note: she’s currently living one town away from my hometown, but no, I don’t know her). When I tell people I’m from New Jersey, I’ll often get a weird look, sometimes even an apology—but I’m never sure why because I love my home state.
Usually I’m able to brush these comments off, but in the wake of Sandy, I’m starting to be more vocal about the bashing of my home. While the majority of students here are from Pennsylvania, remember that many of them are from New Jersey who may not appreciate your jokes so soon after a disaster.
We got lucky, LHU. We didn’t get much more than rain, wind, and lots of leaves coming down. We are not in a gas crisis. Our lives were virtually uninterrupted, while millions of people in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Eastern Pennsylvania are still waiting for their power to come back on.
The people of New Jersey are helping each other out in ways I couldn’t even imagine. Some are risking their lives to rescue others from their homes. Many who do have power are offering shelter to those who need a warm place to stay. I’m incredibly proud of my fellow New Jerseyans, and I’m not afraid to show it. We’re strong, and no amount of jokes will keep us from rebuilding our destroyed homes.