This week marks the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the superstorm that decimated metropolitan areas of the East Coast last fall.
Damage from the storm resulted in more than 100 fatalities, with an estimated loss of $65 billion. Thousands of homes were lost, and millions were without power for days. Thousands of flights were canceled along the eastern seaboard, and multiple public transit services were suspended, including Amtrak and New York City’s bus and subway system. Even the U.S. economic structure ground to a halt, with NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange closing to buckle down before the deluge.
One year later, we reflect on reconstruction efforts post-Sandy. We also pause to assess the role of climate change, exacerbated by human actions, in the creation and severity of the storm.
“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:5 (NIV)
On Oct. 28, I was shocked into a cruel reality when I received an urgent text message as I was about to preach my Sunday sermon at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Arverne (Far Rockaway), N.Y. We were told to evacuate immediately, and that both of the bridges that lead to and from the western portion of the peninsula would be shut down. Hurricane Irene had proven to be a false alarm in 2011, and we mistakenly thought that Sandy would be as well. I instructed all of our parishioners to leave immediately after service. My family and I packed up and headed out to my sister’s place in Bloomfield, N.J.
When I ventured back on Halloween, it took more than five hours to get to Far Rockaway, a peninsula that lies between Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. What I saw on the way was sobering, if not devastating: boats in the middle of the street, debris everywhere, no electricity for miles and miles of Queens and Long Island, and homes – hundreds, if not thousands flooded — many destroyed. My own home and church in Arverne took on nearly 7 ft. of water. At Mount Carmel, our offices, fellowship hall, kitchen, and bathrooms were destroyed.
This week marked six months since Superstorm Sandy left entire communities devastated, families homeless, and many with little hope. But in the midst of this natural disaster, many banded together. As is true with many of our nation's tragedies, recent and throughout our history, communities form and hope emerges amid struggle. Sandy taught us about resilience. It showed us what it truly means to reach out, serve, and love our neighbor.
One young filmmaker in New York, Farihah Zaman, caught that resilience and acts of service on video. Here, she shows us how tragedy can turn into a joint effort to acheive the common good.
As Onleilove Alston reveals in “Connecting the Dots,” in the April 2013 issue of Sojourners magazine, Hurricane Sandy vividly demonstrated the relationship between climate change, poverty, and immigration. Healing is taking place as people of faith step up to coordinate recovery efforts and lead advocacy efforts to curb climate change.
To view some of the ways people are making a difference in communities affected by Hurricane Sandy, check out the slideshow below.
The House Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a bill to allow places of worship to receive federal aid to repair their buildings damaged during Hurricane Sandy.
The bill, which garnered strong bipartisan support, is also expected to pass the Senate, and would address what its sponsors consider a discriminatory practice that keeps federal disaster money from religious groups.
Currently the Federal Emergency Management Agency excludes religious organizations but assists privately owned nonprofits. If the bill becomes law, it will make houses of worship eligible for relief on the same terms as other nonprofits.
“Today’s debate and vote is about those who are being unfairly left out and left behind,” Christopher Smith, R-N.J., one of the bill’s lead sponsors, told his House colleagues.
“It’s about those who helped feed, comfort, clothe, and shelter tens of thousands of victims now being told they are ineligible for a FEMA grant.”
Following more than 200 houses of worship being denied FEMA aid following Superstorm Sandy, on Feb. 13, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 592 with a vote of 354-72, to clarify that houses of worship are “eligible for certain disaster relief and emergency assistance on terms equal to other eligible private nonprofit facilities, and for other purposes.” From The Hill:
Supporters of the bipartisan bill, H.R. 592, said federal aid to houses of worship is not a violation of the Constitution when that aid is meant to be used broadly for a range of affected entities. In those cases, federal aid need not be withheld from houses of worship that are, like many others, seeking to repair their buildings from storm damage.
"There is no intrinsically religious purpose in providing disaster assistance," said Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), a supporter of the bill.
Read more HERE.
“We can’t wait any longer,” Sen. Chuck Schumer declared to his colleagues on Monday. “Ninety-one days ago, Sandy struck a body blow against New York. Today, finally, we can strike back and give our people the help they need to get back on their feet.”
Shortly following, the U.S. Senate passed a long-awaited $50.5-billion disaster aid package that was then sent to the White House for President Obama’s signature.
Superstorm Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, though it was only ever a Category 2 storm at its strongest and had weakened to a Category 1 storm by landfall. Nevertheless, due to its immense size, incredible amount of moisture, and record-breaking storm surge, it is estimated to be the second costliest storm in the history of the United States after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
NEW YORK — It's a short walk from Ground Zero to the Staten Island Ferry terminal.
If you're a dedicated tourist, you can see where a terrorist attack occurred on 9/11 and then hop a ferry to see where Hurricane Sandy devastated Staten Island's oceanfront last month.
Sad to say, but that's exactly what many tourists are doing. Instead of going to Staten Island to help traumatized residents, they go to gawk. Then they go back to Manhattan for lunch and holiday shopping.
This is what happens when people lose a basic sense of obligation to one another. It no longer seems sane or necessary to be charitable. Instead, people feel justified in looking away from need. They feel disconnected from neighbors who are suffering. When the storms of life hit, they call themselves “makers” and dismiss the “takers” as lazy.
James Balog and Jeff Orlowski, makers of the documentary film 'Chasing Ice' sit down with the "Morning Joe" MSNBC crew to discuss the implications of climate change and arctic ice melt. Check our our Sojo review of the film.
It is not surprising that our purely secular “environmental” movements have played out their ability to change society. For the changes we need to undertake are not only technological and political, but deeper and more difficult. They call on us to shape new institutions and new values.
When God’s Wind shattered Pharaoh’s power at the Red Sea, it was only the beginning of the creation of a new society. It took 40 years of struggle, of transformation and mistake, backsliding and grumbling, to ready a people that could live in a sacred relationship with each other, with the Earth, and with the Breath of Life.
So even if we were to shatter the gross and domineering political and economic power of our modern pharaohs, the giant corporations of Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Unnatural Gas that will not relent from over-burning and overpowering us, we would still need to be growing what religions claim to offer: a new vision of our lives.
For our brothers and sisters on the East Coast, in the path of the storm they call "Sandy," I've put together a little music for you to help pass the time. Sending you prayers of protection, peace, and grace (and, I hope, more than a bit of musical joy and solace) from the shores of the Pacific here in California at the SoJo West office.
Inside the blog, there are 30 videos. For those of you with power (and an Internet connection), I hope it helps pass the time and maybe even gets you to get up and dance a little in your living rooms.
Here's the song and video the playlist begins with: "No Storms Come" by our Sojo friends, The Innocence Mission:
Editor's Note: Sojourners offices, which are based in Washington, D.C., will be closed due to the weather. We pray for the safety of our staff, neighbors, and all those affected by this storm.
God, we pray for all those along the East Coast in the path of Hurricane Sandy. Grant safety to all, including the first responders. We pray for all those who will lose electricity and whose homes may be been damaged. But we pray especially for those who have no homes and no shelters in times such as these. We ask that your hand would protect them and keep them safe. May our paths cross with theirs so that we might have an opportunity to love and serve them. Amen.
"O Lord of LIght" by the Innocence Mission