Looking Through the Eye of the Storm

Toward the end of last week, word spread around campus about the impending threat posed by Hurricane Sandy, which was rapidly plowing its way up the east coast. Reactions to this were varied. While many students were thrilled by the prospect of missing class for a few days, others were terrified of the dangers it posed. The shelves at the Fresh Grocer were swept clean as people began to stock up food and water as though they were preparing for the end of days.

As a Philadelphia native, I too was somewhat nervous about what damages and risks a hurricane would entail. Shortly before the storm, however, I had a conversation with another FH resident who hails from Florida. She told me about her experiences with hurricanes back at home, especially those of greater magnitude than Sandy, and explained that this was simply a glorified rainstorm. She showed no fear or hesitation toward this ominous leviathan which was flying toward Philly at a harrowing rate.

Confused by her calmness, I began to ponder the different perceptions people held of this natural disaster. I came to realize that neither her view nor mine was completely right or wrong. While it would have been irresponsible to not take any precautions toward this storm, it was important also to recognize our relative safety. Penn is inland and it would take a much larger storm to completely flood campus. Both Fisher Hassenfeld and the University at large provided us numerous resources and kept us well-informed to ensure our safety. I then thought about the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the severity of the damage that storm caused. I also thought about the numerous homeless people living in the city and how the wind and rain would affect them.

As I sit at my desk typing this post, looking out my window at the wind whipping through the trees along Hamilton Walk, I can only think about those who have no choice but to brave this storm. Each raindrop humbles me with the knowledge that, while my clothes are dry and warm, someone else not far from me is drenched and freezing. Of course, I am not writing this to suggest we all must go outside and keep them company, which would do more harm than good. Our ability to help those less fortunate in this difficult time is limited. Instead, I just want us all to keep these people in mind as we complain about the amount of work we have to make up and the inconvenience of having to walk to the dining hall in the rain. While misfortune is in the eye of the beholder, we truly have no reason to complain. Once the clouds have dissipated and the sun comes out, we will be able to leave our rooms and carry on as usual. Others will feel the effects of Sandy for weeks, months, even years to come.

There will always be other storms, but we must put them in perspective. This storm may have seemed like a curse to many of us, but surviving to face the next one is surely a blessing.

Top photo by Brian Birke, bottom photo by Cuttlefish  (used under Creative Commons license)
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