Superstorm Sandy: A Thanksgiving for gratitude and remembrance

IMAGE: Carmen Rodriguez and her daughter, Zulma Torruella, 17, acquired relief supplies, including a Family Food Kit, at the Hunts Point Alliance for Children, World Vision's local partner. (Photo: Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)

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Last month, World Vision's Laura Reinhardt reported on the devastation of Superstorm Sandy as it made landfall along highly populated areas of the U.S. East Coast, including New York City.

As Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, Laura remembers the families she met during that heartrending time -- and gives thanks for the World Vision supporters whose generosity enabled the assistance we've been able to provide.

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This weekend, I pored over vegan cookbooks to decide what dishes I should bring to my family’s Thanksgiving celebration. I love thumbing through recipes and putting together menus. I feel blessed to have this option.

At the same time, I remember the families I met in New York just a few weeks ago, who are struggling just to get by in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Their worlds were turned upside down -- homes devastated, power lost, food destroyed, and memories swept away. This Thanksgiving, please remember them in your prayers.

Losing Everything

The Gonzalez family never dreamed that water would stand nearly four feet high in their basement apartment. I will never forget their little boy, Junior, and his tears as he walked through the devastation.

The family has dipped into the college fund of their daughter, Maria, to buy new beds and supplies for their home. Slowly, they are beginning to rebuild their lives. But it’s going to be a long time before things feel “normal” again.

Keeping warm and struggling to provide

Omar's son, Elijah English, 9, holds one of 300 blankets distributed by World Vision in Far Rockaway, following Sandy's destruction. (Photo: Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)

Omar English, a father of five, braved a long line in the freezing temperatures in the Far Rockaway section of Queens so that he could get a blanket, food, and more relief supplies provided by World Vision to help his family.

At night, in their apartment with no power, they struggled to keep warm by sleeping with their clothes and coats on and huddling together under what blankets they could find.

“[With the supplies], I can feed my kids," he said. "I can keep them warm until hopefully we get some kind of power inside our buildings.”

Sandy’s Far-Reaching Effects

Carmen Rodriguez is a mother of five who lives in Hunts Point, a low-income community in the Bronx. Her family didn’t suffer much physical damage from the storm, but Sandy hit them in another way.

Carmen goes to school every day, working on getting her high school diploma. She plans to continue on after that to be a social worker. She and her husband just squeak by with the monthly food stamps they receive.

But they also depend on the breakfast and lunch their children receive at school. For over a week, her children had been home from school.

“Basically, the food didn’t last all month,” she said.

As she looked at some of the Family Food Kits, which feeds a family of five for a day, and other relief supplies from World Vision, she said, “[I’m] grateful that we have many people out there that really decided that they wanted to direct their help toward us, especially here in Hunts Point.

"I haven’t seen a lot of this come through, and every time I see it I just get happier, more sentimental. I just want to start crying.”

Thanks and prayers

I give thanks that my job allows me to meet people like Maria, Omar, Carmen, and Junior. Their strength and courage in the face of tragedy inspires me.

I pray that they will receive the help they need to provide for their families. I pray that all the areas devastated by Superstorm Sandy will be restored as quickly as possible. And I pray that, as people gather with family and friends for Thanksgiving, their hearts will be moved to continue to help people who are struggling to rebuild their lives.

On behalf of all of the children and families whom World Vision is privileged to serve because of the generosity of our supporters, Happy Thanksgiving.

You can continue to support our relief efforts in New York and across the East Coast, as survivors of Superstorm Sandy begin to rebuild.

Make a one-time donation to World Vision's U.S. Disaster Response Fund. Your contribution will help us come alongside families whose lives have been turned upside-down by disasters like Superstorm Sandy. You'll help us stay there for the long haul, working with local partners to provide emergency relief and long-term recovery.


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