It is now Monday morning and we are resuming classes today. The campus has been very fortunate. Our loss of power was limited and of short duration and the campus damage was mostly limited to trees with very little other damage. Long Island’s damage was extensive with reports of 100,000 homes lost and almost 300,000 homes still without power 5 days later. The devastation on the north shore and south shore of the Island was massive. Lights are still out at key intersections, gas lines at those few stations that are open are often 100 cars long. Mass transit is returning but still disrupted and we are now hearing reports of a nor’easter by the middle of this week. Recovery will take a long time. Adjusting to the return of heat and hot water at home, once it arrives again, will not take a long time. Instantaneous is exactly how long it will take me to adjust and to be thankful for this one important step toward normalcy. For many of my colleagues a return to normalcy, given the significant property devastation, will be much more difficult
Closing for the week has made sense. Given everything that members of our community have been through we could not have held classes this week. Even the commute has become much more difficult and much riskier. Our president has reached out to all members of the community in an effort to provide and coordinate support for those members of our community with the greatest need. The outreach is very much needed. And to the credit of the community, we have already had offers of support from all constituencies but more support is needed and coordination is key to having the help available go to those with the greatest need.
We need to make up for the lost time in class and I know we can determine ways to do so effectively so that the learning that should take place in a course does in fact take place. But there can be no one approach that will meet the needs of all our faculty and all our students and flexibility on all parts is essential. Some faculty and students (as well as administrators and staff) have lost their homes; some have lost their computers as well as key books and papers; others have no phone or internet access; and with the shortage of gas and the limits of mass transit, some members of our community will not be able to get here. In some cases, all of the above applies and the hardships are multiple and formidable.
In my role as a school board member, I have already heard from the superintendent that he expects to open schools today after also having been closed for the week. Many of the kids in our district will be going to school, even though they still have no power at home and their sense of normalcy seems seriously compromised.. Here too we need to be flexible and recognize that many kids have felt the trauma in their lives that we all work so hard to shield them from. I know the life lesson is important and so is the message regarding the importance of resuming education ASAP. I fully support the schools reopening quickly and I am sure that the community feels equally supportive.
In a difficult time, what members of the community do makes all the difference. We can’t waive away the devastation; we can’t just turn the power on; and we can’t just instantly return to normal. We can do the best we can to make a positive difference and to cope with adversity. I see more and more instances of members of our community doing what needs to be done and I am thankful for their good work. And at the end of the day it will be the resilience of people that once again makes the difference (as it has before in so many tragedies around the globe) and allows us to move forward.