FDU students affected by recent hurricanes
A few weeks ago, hurricanes Harvey and Irma rocked the south, leaving severe destruction behind. Hurricane Harvey flooded and destroyed Houston’s streets and houses, leaving many people stranded and homeless.
Hurricane Irma tore through southwest Florida, resulting in damage and power outages across the state.
At Fairleigh Dickinson University, the immediate effects of the storms resonated with some students especially.
Amanda Vignes, a sophomore theatre arts major, lives about an hour and a half outside of Houston, Texas.
Most importantly, Vignes said her family is safe and, besides a foot of flooding and a power outage, her house is fine. She recalled the terrifying storm and an emotional phone call with her mother back in Texas.
“She was like, ‘Amanda, you would not believe-’, and she stopped and started tearing up, ‘you would not believe how many people lost their homes,’” Vignes said.
Vignes had already been moved back into her dorm at FDU for a week when the Category 4 storm hit Texas late on Friday, Aug. 25. She urged her family to evacuate.
She did not care about her house as much as she cared about the safety of her family and pets. Fortunately, her family ended up evacuating to Austin.
Vignes could only describe the feeling of helplessness while she was 1,600 miles away from her family.
“I was glad I didn’t have to be in it, but at the same time, for my family, I wanted to be,” Vignes said.
Vignes also spoke about events that made national headlines during the storm, such as the story about “Mattress Mack” that went viral.
Jim McIngvale, popularly known as “Mattress Mack,” is the owner of Gallery Furniture. McIngvale opened his warehouses to people looking for refuge from the storm.
Vignes recalled the times she had gone to Gallery Furniture and then expressed her surprise at seeing Mattress Mack all over the news and social media. She was also shocked when reading different articles from news outlets and seeing pictures of her hometown ravaged by the storm plastered all over them.
“It was hitting me; I’ve been to these places,” Vignes said.
“People I know have been affected by this. People have lost friends, lost family members, lost their homes, lost who they are.”
Despite the heartbreak she felt for her home, Vignes also described the immense pride she has in her community.
Throughout the hurricane, there were a number of stories of people helping one another, whether it was rescuing the stranded on boats or providing food and shelter for each other.
“My pride in where I come from has gone up so much. It has been so amazing to see them come together,” said Vignes.
Vignes also expressed her appreciation for the organizations across the country that rushed to help Texas in its time of need. Her former high school received “classrooms full” of school supplies from a school in Rhode Island, she said.
Vignes also expressed her thanks to FDU because of how much the school has helped her. The university recently held various drives and events to raise money for relief in Texas.
Vignes said she is grateful to the many people who have asked her if she and her family are okay.
She is also grateful to the Office of the Dean of Students. She said they sent her and other students affected by Harvey a personal email and even provided her with her textbooks for the semester because she had not bought them.
“FDU reaching out and helping me and other students, even with just a simple ‘how are you’ and ‘how can we help,’ does so much. That was the moment I felt, ‘I am a part of this community,’” Vignes said.
Another student affected by the onslaught of hurricanes recently is Hannah Szarko, also a sophomore theatre arts major.
Szarko lives about 30 minutes outside of Tampa in Wesley Chapel, Florida.
Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, hit South Florida and the Gulf Coast with extreme rain and winds of a record 185 mph, according to The New York Times, leaving much of Florida torn apart.
Szarko said her family is safe and her house is in good condition besides some minor flooding outside the house and having no power. In fact, some parts of Florida were still out of power a few weeks after the hurricane. Szarko said electric trucks are still working around the clock to bring power back to Tampa.
Szarko considers her family fortunate because the eye of the hurricane was supposed to hit Tampa but curved out of its path.
“We knew this was serious because we haven’t boarded up our house since 2004,” Szarko said.
Szarko was also away at school as the hurricane made landfall in Florida. She described the experience as stressful and sad.
“I’ve been with my family through it all; I’ve been through all of the bad weather,” Szarko said, “Having a destructive and severe hurricane hit my home, it was a little hard not being there.”
Unlike Texas, Florida experiences tropical storms often and Szarko explained the preparation techniques her family took. Her family always keeps a hurricane pack or box full of fans, batteries, flashlights and non-perishable food items.
With the frequency of storms in Florida, Szarko’s family knew that Irma would be detrimental so they were able to plan for it beforehand, like boarding up their house.
Szarko also spoke of her experience with FDU in the aftermath of the storm and how the Office of the Dean of Students also sent her an email checking up on her situation.
Szarko said, “Whenever a disaster strikes, it’s always a comforting and warming thought that your university is trying to help those who are less fortunate and who have gone through the destructive periods of a natural disaster.”
In the wake of both storms, Vignes and Szarko spoke about the hurricanes that continue to ravage regions of the world, such as Hurricane Maria, which wreaked havoc over the Caribbean.
“People have to accept that during hurricane season, it’s going to be rough,” Szarko said.
Vignes discussed her take on evacuating or staying at home through a dangerous hurricane.
“Just go,” Vignes advised. “At the end of the day, your items can be replaced but someone’s life can’t.”