Whenever disaster strikes and major damage ensues, Business Facilities always springs into action to give its readers timely updates of the extent of the destruction and the slow, sometimes painful recovery efforts.
Last year, we chronicled the havoc wrought by monster tornadoes in Joplin and Tuscaloosa, followed by inspirational and heroic rebuilding. We also held our breath, with the rest of the world, and gave you hourly bulletins during the cataclysmic meltdown in Fukushima, Japan following the earthquake and tsunami.
It never occurred to us that when this year’s major natural disaster arrived, we would be right in the middle of it. The BF team and its parent company, Group C Media, are still coping with the impact of Hurricane Sandy more than a week after the superstorm surged into New Jersey and decimated large areas of the Jersey Shore, Staten Island, Queens and many places in between.
Our headquarters office in Tinton Falls is about 10 miles from the shore near Asbury Park. As this is being written, it remains dark and cold. Power has been restored sporadically in Monmouth and Ocean counties, among the hardest hit areas of NJ. As of this morning, hundreds of thousands were still without power in NJ and NY, as a winter storm heads up the coast to deliver another body blow to this wounded area.
In many cases, the reason for the remaining power outages is obvious – a large fallen tree trunk pinning a snapped power line to the pavement – but often the pattern of restoration and continued deprivation seems to depend on the luck of the draw and the obscure wiring of a haphazard and aging transmission system. The traffic light at one end of Apple Street near our home office burns bright and the large animal hospital at the other end is bustling with business as usual. Everything in between is dark and quiet.
But we’re not sitting around cursing the darkness. As in the aforementioned disasters we’re covered from a distance, here in New Jersey everyday people are stepping up and performing heroic acts, communities and co-workers are coming together. Whether the issue is food, shelter, gasoline, office space or simply making sure that no one remains in danger, we’re linking arms and lifting each other up. And we’re being inspired by an outpouring of help and sympathy from friends, neighbors, distant relatives and strangers who are traveling from places as far as Texas to help repair the damage and bring much-needed supplies.
We’re pleased to report that, thanks to quick action from our top execs and the generosity of a local business acquaintance, we’ve established a fully-functional temporary office headquarters in the Galleria complex in Red Bank. Our editors, sales reps and support staff remain on duty – working on site or remotely via our server networks — and the work of our magazines, events and websites continues uninterrupted.
Our governor seems to be everywhere at once, providing strong and reassuring leadership on matters large and small – even issuing an official proclamation rescheduling Halloween for the tots — and our president is keeping his promise to pull out all of the stops and provide full federal assistance. A phone call to FEMA brings a personal representative bearing vouchers for shelter, food and fuel; more than 11,000 electrical workers have been brought into the state to restore the transmission network.
Even as the debris is still being cleaned up, relief fund-raising drives are generating a huge and heartwarming response. Many of these efforts are being mounted by large national organizations, including the Red Cross and TV networks, but some are spontaneous and unforgettable. Here’s one of our favorites:
On the night of the storm, a police officer in the Packanack Lake area of Wayne parked next to a ruptured gas line to keep residents away from danger. A tree came down, crushing the roof of the officer’s car, pinning him against the seat and breaking his back. On the weekend after the storm, two runners from the canceled New York City marathon arrived in Wayne and ran an impromptu benefit marathon around Packanack Lake for the fallen police officer, raising thousands of dollars.
In the early hours after the storm powered through, our Web connection became an essential lifeline. An email string under the plaintive header “Everybody OK?” soon drew an electronic roll call for Group C colleagues which quickly became a lifeboat of shared stories, improvised plans and commiseration with those who were still suffering. We learned that one of our colleagues, who lives in Keansburg, had lost a house. Most were without power, down to their last gallon of gas and lighting their way with candles and flashlights. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
Each of us had his own story to tell, whether it was about a relative driving 300 miles to deliver a generator to a powerless home or a 91-year-old mother-in-law being coaxed down from a ladder when she tried to inspect a severed power line. When the governor ordered odd-even gas rationing, we got reports from the front lines of the hunt for octane. It was quickly determined that cans should be filled before gas tanks, so that others could be given the means to get their vehicles through the lines, which after several days now seem to be easing up. Advice is being shared about keeping the water running in kitchen sinks so pipes don’t freeze in homes that are still without power.
Throughout this ordeal, our spirits have been lifted by messages flowing in from our business associates and friends from all across the country, expressing sympathy, support and solidarity. You all want to know how you can help. Please believe us when we tell you that just hearing your kind words is the biggest help of all.
We’ve also learned something about ourselves, our community and our state. New Jersey’s denizens like to project an attitude of we-can-take-it toughness that’s easy to stereotype.