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Recent natural disasters take a toll on school community

Betsey Bennett, Staff Writer

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Within the months of August and September, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Jose, Hurricane Maria, and several earthquakes have hit the southern United States, the Caribbean, and Mexico, each one having an effect on the greater school community.

Disaster Relief

Student Body Presidents Daniel Posner (12) and Siddharth Tripathi (12) are raising awareness about the recent natural disasters and collecting clothes to donate to victims.

Initially, they were looking to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey through an organization collecting school supplies for affected schools.

“The effort is in the works, but in the meantime, as more recent natural disasters have taken their toll, we decided to participate in a local donation drive through the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization that was announced by the Bronx Bureau President’s Office,” Posner said.

The clothing drive will be taking place at school all week, and the collected items will be shipped out to Puerto Rico and Mexico.

“These natural disasters may seem far away, but they are really in our backyard and they are hurting our neighbors,” Posner said. “Clothing is a basic necessity and as a large school community, if everyone brings in only a few items, we can make a big difference.”

According to Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly, the schoolwide efforts to aid the victims of these natural disasters embody the core value of striking a balance between individual achievement and a caring community.

“Within and across all of our divisions, the Board of Trustees and administration stand ready to support the growing number of hurricane related responses emerging from classroom discussions, the UD student leaders, our MD service learning program and even the thoughtful ideas put forth by individuals at Nursery and Lower,” Kelly said.

Hurricane Harvey

On August 25th, Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 Hurricane with 130 mph winds near Rockport, Texas.

According to Beatrix Bondor (12), who has family in suburban Houston, the hurricane itself was not too destructive for her family.

“What they did feel was the flooding, which came in the aftermath,” Bondor said. “Their street actually ended up flooding pretty badly, to the extent that on my cousin’s Snapchat story, I saw a truck going down the street with water above the wheels.”

According to Bondor, the hurricane has also had a negative effect on her family’s commutes into work.

“A normally twenty-minute commute has taken my aunt three hours for a long time because of the flooding and the traffic,” Bondor said. “The city is a mess.”

Aaron Shuchman (9) also has relatives that live in Houston. Most of his older relatives live in high rises, so they were not affected, but the majority of his family lives in standard houses and therefore lost power, Shuchman said.

“Many had water come in on the first floor, and they had to move all their stuff up to the second floor to prevent it from being ruined,” Shuchman said. “A few of my cousins sat on the top floor of their house in their bathing suits because of the heat that came from being without air conditioning.”

Gordon Goodman ‘71, who lives in River Oaks, Houston, did not experience flooding in his home because his neighborhood is on relatively high ground, he said.

However, one of his daughters lived in another part of Houston that was flooded, and since then she has been living in Galveston, he said.

Since the storm, Goodman has been providing help to those who suffered severe damage in the form of legal aid clinics.

Hurricane Irma

Just days after Hurricane Harvey dissipated, Hurricane Irma slammed the Caribbean and Florida.

“My parents and my siblings were all getting scared because we didn’t know what was going to happen to our family in Miami,” Luke Weber (10) said. “We were always looking at news and getting worried because the hurricane was supposed to directly hit Miami.”

Weber’s entire family evacuated before the storm hit, he said. Some of his relatives stayed in Tennessee for two weeks, while others came up to New York to stay with Weber and his immediate family for about a week.

According to Weber, his family’s houses sustained minor damage from the hurricane.

“My grandmother’s gate was broken,” Weber said. “And my uncle, his house is by the water, so he has a big fence keeping his dog out of jumping in the bay, and that entire fence just got blown off.”

In addition, the school that Weber’s cousins attend, Ransom Everglades, was damaged by Hurricane Irma.

Since their school is right next to the water, there was a large boat that got blown onto their football field.

“A lot of people from that community decided to step up and rebuild, so there was a big movement among students and families belonging to that school,” Weber said. “So while there was a lot of destruction, there was also a community effort to repair.”

Weber visited Miami this past weekend.

“While we were driving, I noticed that all along the highway, some of the street lights were broken, some of them were crooked, and others just shattered,” Weber said. “You could tell that remnants of the hurricane still existed.”

Mexico City Earthquake

On September 19, the day of remembrance for the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck Central Mexico.

Emily Bleiberg (12) has family that lives in and near Mexico City.

“My cousin’s building at work basically fell down and they had to evacuate,” Bleiberg said. “There’s a lot that needs to be done and things that need to be rebuilt, and I think there is a lot of stress revolving around that.”

In addition, Bleiberg has a close family friend whose family lives right where the earthquake hit the hardest, she said.

“They were calling us and just crying and trying to find any family members that they could,” Bleiberg said.

“They were calling us and just crying and trying to find any family members that they could,” Bleiberg said.

Bleiberg’s cousins have taken part in the rescue operations to go out and try to find people.

“I think it’s brought them together in a lot of ways, but it’s certainly been heartbreaking to watch and heartbreaking to see when piled amidst all the natural disasters in the world,” Bleiberg said.

Bleiberg is leading a Spanish Club fundraising initiative for the earthquake and hurricane in Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Maria

Most recently, Hurricane Maria devastated the Caribbean, especially Puerto Rico

Tutoring Center Director Lionel Garrison Jr. has a large extended family on St. Croix, as well as a condo with his wife and children.

According to Garrison, the hurricane was not as devastating as it could have been. The island suffered a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane in 1989, and as a result, people began to build sturdier houses, Garrison said.

Although Garrison’s condo weathered the storm well, Hurricane Maria pounded the island, causing huge winds, down trees, 25-foot waves, and an 18-foot storm surge, he said.

“Almost all residents of St. John and St. Thomas were flown to St Croix after Irma, because it was not as badly damaged,” Garrison said. “But now St. Croix got hit.”

ICIE co-Director John Gentile did not have any family members directly affected by the recent natural disasters, but he did have close friends in the paths of several of these weather events.

“I know lots of colleagues and friends who have relatives and families in Puerto Rico, who have been completely devastated by the effects of the hurricane there,” Gentile said. “I also have a really good friend whose grandparent had to be evacuated out of Florida during Irma, and she’s 95, and so the impact of that is pretty intense when you’re at that age.”

In addition, Gentile recently visited Austin, Texas, where his friends were discussing the evacuations and rescue efforts for Hurricane Harvey.

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Horace Mann's Weekly Newspaper Since 1903
Recent natural disasters take a toll on school community