Now that the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has finally passed and everyone in South Orange is generally back to their normal routines (except NJ Transit), I wanted to take a moment to recognize and thank some of the amazing efforts that occurred in the days immediately following the storm. First and foremost, the South Orange Village staff who always do a great job, went above and beyond in their efforts. Specifically:
- Public Works for working around the clock clearing the roads for days on end (from trees, leaves and snow...often all at the same time)
- Police and Fire for keeping everyone safe during and after the storm dealing with countless calls and issues
- Village Clerk for organizing all the logistics for the presidential election and the relocation of polling places that did not have power
- South Orange Library and staff - for providing a safe place for people to charge their devices and stay warm, while also acting as a Shelter at night
- All other departments for continuing to do their jobs, while dealing with the numerous challenges and disruptions that the storm provided.
Additionally, I want to thank all of the places in town that opened their doors for people who did not have power - from SOPAC, to Houses of Worship, to many businesses to ordinary residents who opened up their homes. These unsung heroes allowed people to get online, do work, have a warm place to sleep, a home-cooked meal or just be together in a time of need.
The last point regarding residents is one that I found so inspiring that I want to expand upon it. Not only did people open their homes to each other, but the efforts that residents undertook to help each other was astounding. For example, there were many streets in town with power on only one side of the street. Those residents helped each other out by stringing extension cords across the street to help their neighbors who did not have power. There were also countless stories of people helping each other with reconfiguring their gas boilers to bypass the electrical ignition, allowing them to have heat. While these probably were not the safest ideas in the world, and not something I would generally recommend, people did what they needed to do to help each other out in a time of crisis.
In addition, residents who volunteer for the South Orange CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) stepped forward to volunteer their time to help spend the night with those who needed a place to stay at the South Orange shelter.
When it became abundantly clear that PSE&G did not know the extent of the power outages, residents banded together and crowdsourced a Google map of all streets in Maplewood and South Orange to visibly map the power outages (http://goo.gl/maps/16AFW) across the two towns. This map was posted online and updated as new information was provided. It was even provided to PSE&G as a resource for them to use themselves.
With the disastrous communications from NJ Transit, residents created a SOMA Commuters Facebook Group (http://www.facebook.com/SOMACommuters) and a SOMA Commuters Twitter account (@SOMACommuters) to provide up to the minute updates on commuter-related information in order to help their neighbors navigate the confusing and inconsistent information needed to get them to work. Now that the worst has passed, this free "service" is still continuing and has become one positive outgrowth of the storm.
Lastly, in the aftermath of the storm, residents recently came together to organize and attend a group clean-up of our parks in order to help both the Village and the Public Works department who simply have too much to do.
While there is no question there is plenty to learn from this storm in order to improve for the next time, the hard work of all Village staff, together with the spirit of cooperation and neighborliness that residents demonstrated all across town to help each other, was so amazing and exemplified the true essence of our community. As we head into the Holiday Season, let's all be mindful of this spirit and continue to work together and help each other in any way we can - all year round. Happy Holidays!