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Sabrina Wallace: 'Sandy' showed need for more comprehensive disaster coverage

November 04. 2013 1:13AM

I was shocked, absolutely floored. It was that moment that I realized that seeing something for yourself and seeing it through the media are completely different things. I also realized that the media do not focus on what they should, even when it comes to large issues.

It was June 20, almost exactly six months after Hurricane Sandy plowed through the East Coast, ripping apart New York and New Jersey. I was away from my hometown of Londonderry for my roommate, Alexa's, graduation in Toms River, N.J., near Seaside, staring at a spot where a house used to be.

Staring at this space, I remembered when Sandy "hit" New Hampshire with some heavy rain, wind and power outages. The damage turned out to be so minimal that we were out of school for only a day, a few of my wooden fence panels fell down, and the memes mocking Sandy's wrath spread like a virus through social media. My personal favorite was the image of a plastic deck chair knocked over with the text reading, "Sandy 2012, we will rebuild."

I also saw the damage through the news that Sandy brought to New York and New Jersey, and I truly did feel awful for everyone who had just lost everything. But the media stopped discussing it, and I couldn't truly understand until I saw it.

The night before Alexa's graduation, she and her family took me on a tour of the town to show me what Seaside is really about. Included in my tour were spots where Sandy had left damage in its wake. At this point, it had been six months since Sandy hit. The town had done a great job of clearing up the boardwalk, but the remnants of the storm throughout the town were still unavoidable.
We were driving on a street that looked completely normal; houses were intact, gardens were growing, and one may not have been able to tell that there had just been a disaster, until one reached the spot where there used to be a house. There was a completely clean-cut square outline of where a family's home used to be, just months before. It simply got picked up and carried away with the water, leaving almost no damage to the home itself, but placing it on the opposite side of the bay. An entire house, on the opposite side of the bay where it used to sit so contently.

"You see that island out there on the other side of the bay? The house that used to be here," said Alexa, pointing to where I should look, "is on the other side of that island. It got carried over the entire thing, and it's still there in the water among other houses." I was speechless.

As far as I knew sitting at home in New Hampshire, within a month after the storm relief efforts were going reasonably well and there wasn't too much concern floating around the media about damage control in New York and New Jersey. But all that does is fuel ignorance of the country's problems. Seeing that house missing six months after the storm, I realized that as a nation we need to make sure that people are not left in the dark about the continuing efforts and remaining damage. I had no idea there was still that kind of damage, but I should have known.

Why should we expect that the most damaged areas of the country are able to fix the damage alone? They shouldn't have to. I know that if I were in the family without a home, I would be looking for immediate assistance which isn't always available locally.

The news stations need to continue to cover the progress of towns in repair in the wake of storms like Hurricane Sandy, even if it isn't as severe as right after the storm hits. That way, everyone can have a home again and not be kept waiting upwards of six months for help. Maybe news stations think it would be obnoxious, maybe they think it would be overkill, but I know that the nation needs to hear the stories as they continue until everything is fixed.

Everyone deserves the luxury of repaired damage and a place to call home, and the path to that is awareness throughout the whole country; we can't leave states stranded dealing with their own damage.
Sabrina Wallace of Londonderry is a student at George Washington University.

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