We’ve had too many hurricanes the past few years. However, none of them was more devastating than the recent Hurricane Sandy. It was one of the largest storms to ever hit the East Coast. This incredible disaster impacted many parts of the United States. New Jersey, Long Island, and New York City all faced destroyed houses, power outages, downed trees, and major flooding. Many people had to evacuate as soon as they could, and the ones that didn’t, regretted saying in their homes. One of the evacuation centers was FDR High School- this is why we missed an extra 3 days of school. There were between 800-1,000 people living here in the weeks following Sandy.
We all understand that FDR is a large place which can be used during an emergency. However, in my opinion, this was not the right place. The reality is the city and DOE had no second tier in their evacuation plan. The school housed the sick (both physically and mentally), the elderly, and the homeless. This was very unhealthy for the school and the returning students. Along with that, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) showed up a whole week after the hurricane. FEMA basically takes responsibilities when there is a natural disaster. They manage supplies, housings, and sweet federal cash when we have immediate problems. However, showing up a week after the event was not very supportive or responsible. They didn’t respond quickly, especially in an emergency like this. While there are places were FEMA’s response was appropriate, FDR was not one of them. When FEMA came to FDR, they basically did their job by helping the people that were living here. They gave some people checks. They gave supplies and worked out some of the housing issues the city did not. The real heroes were the many volunteers, Red Cross, and custodial staff who worked extremely hard to help where the city and feds did not.
Not only did FEMA show up late, but the DOE’s Deputy Chancellor also showed up very late. The Deputy Chancellor came to FDR on Friday, November 9th. That was two weeks late! That’s really sad. They didn’t realize or care that, the people needed help, and the students missed 3 extra days of school. They didn’t really stick to what their website says, “Children First, Always.” The children weren’t first this time around!
The fact that there were people who were sick and of unknown criminal and mental backgrounds living in the building when we came back is very disturbing. Especially when, the DOE has a rule of not letting people work or volunteers in city schools before being finger printed. Yet, we had over 800 people living here that were not finger printed. We understand it was an emergency. However, if we look at the needs of the students and the school itself, it wasn’t a very good idea. Hopefully, the city will have a relocation plan for the days after our next hurricane- but don’t hold your breath. Children First, Sometimes!